The Culinary Arts Department at South Texas College held its first Thanksgiving buffet to raise funds for the college’s student food pantry.

Culinary students at South Texas College celebrated the first anniversary of a student food pantry at STC’s Pecan Campus. The food pantry provides meals for students and helps connect them to other supporting resources. At the Thanksgiving buffet, held Nov. 13, students served 350 faculty, staff and students, raising more than $2,284 to support the student food pantry and establish pantries on other STC campuses in the coming year.

“There has been a lot of preparation and a lot of time that has gone into this but it has been a true team effort,” culinary student, Roxanne Aguilar said in a press release. “I am glad I could be here to help students.”

But according to Jennifer Guerra, chair of the Culinary Arts Department at STC, one of the biggest obstacles they face is making themselves visible on campus.

“We did this buffet to raise funds but also raise awareness that the food pantry is here and exists as a service for our students,” she said in a press release. “This was a big event and it has been fun to see the students’ reactions, and they all seem to appreciate the fact that it’s for something good and for their fellow students who might be in need.”

The food pantry was established last year with the support of the Food Bank RGV, which initially agreed to provide all food for free, including transportation to STC’s pantry for a full year. That contract with the Food Bank is slated to end January 2019.

The next step, according to coordinators of the pantry is to make it self-sustaining, and eventually open two more pantries at STC’s Mid Valley and Starr County campuses.

The pantry offers rations of non-perishable food items, but the services to students extend beyond food donations. By connecting them with the appropriate counselors and staff at the college, students can potentially have access to a wide range of assistance. Those services can enable them to succeed while attending school, STC officials said.

The student food pantry is located on the second floor in Building H at the Pecan campus. Students can contact any representative from Student Activities or a counselor to begin the process to request assistance. The process is anonymous. For more information, call Elibariki Nguma, director of Student Activities and Wellness at South Texas College, at (956) 872-2515, or email bariki@southtexascollege.edu.