‘Feed your brain’: Lions’ Kitchen at Wallace State sees increased need

“We had another amazing donation to our sweet little pantry! Alumni, Brandon Sims, along with Vincent's Furniture in Cullman donated 6 beautiful chairs to place around our family-style table in Lions' Kitchen Food Pantry. Brandon graduated from the Diagnostic Imaging program at Wallace State and is now the Director of Diagnostic Imaging at Marshall Medical Center North. He hopes that his donation will shed light on the field of Diagnostic Imaging and how fun it can be! He said he really enjoyed his time at Wallace State and that they have the best program around!” (Lions' Kitchen Food Pantry/Facebook) 

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – Hunger and food insecurity are statewide issues, and Wallace State Community College (WSCC) is no exception. Christine Wiggins, Title III director, and Bobby Tarvin, coordinated care specialist, are continuing the college’s tradition of meeting the needs of hungry students through Lions’ Kitchen. 

Lions’ Kitchen is a food and toiletries pantry made available to WSCC students, though it’s not the first resource like this the college has offered.  

“Lions’ Kitchen was officially established in 2018, but food pantries and efforts to feed students have existed on Wallace State’s campus for many years,” remarked Wiggins. “Whether it was a drawer of snacks offered by a teacher, a cabinet of kitchen staples stocked by success coaches or Campus Ministries hosting Food for Thought – a free meal every other Monday – the college has long made efforts to feed her students when the need was known.” 

In fact, Wiggins shared, Wallace State’s Campus Ministries had an on-campus food closet/food pantry for students that existed for more than 20 years, until 2018. It was stocked and supported by local churches, and students were referred there for food when needed. That closet/pantry was in addition to Food for Thought meals.  

Through a grant from the United States Department of Education, Lions’ Kitchen changed management in June 2022, allowing for dedicated staff to run the program. While the grant focused on meeting the basic needs of students, food is an unallowable expense, leading to a dependence on donations to keep the pantry up and running, said Wiggins, who added, “We are constantly fundraising, increasing awareness and encouraging donations.”  

Wiggins said the most requested and recommended donations are granola/cereal bars, canned or pouch meat like tuna, and “heat and eat” meals like microwave mashed potatoes, pasta, etc. 

Lions’ Kitchen has certainly seen an uptick in visits since the beginning of the year.  

“This January we had 53 visits, which is up 341% from last year (12 visits in January 2022). And in the fall semester alone, we averaged seven new clients a month,” said Wiggins, who attributed part of the increase in visits to having dedicated staff, and another part to their effort to rebrand the free pantry as a support resource.  

“We believe that the most important aspect of our work is taking the stigma out of needing support,” she said. “Under new management the Lions’ Kitchen motto is ‘FEED YOUR BRAIN.’ Helping students understand that food is as important to their learning as are their books is an important message we work to convey.” 

Wiggins said the pantry is open to all students, not just those at or below the poverty level like several other local food pantries. She encouraged any student who may have forgotten their lunch, or left their wallet at home or just needs a pack of crackers to tide them over until they get home to drop by the pantry. 

Physical donations can be dropped off at the Lions’ Kitchen Monday-Thursday from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and Fridays from 7:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.. Monetary donations can be made through the Wallace State Future Foundation at www.wsccfuturefoundation.org/give by choosing “Lions’ Kitchen” from the dropdown menu. 

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