Food for Thought: Broward College pantry helps students dealing with food insecurity

Broward College has set up a food pantry called "Seahawk Marketplace" to help students who are dealing with food insecurity.

DAVIE, Fla. – A student can have a hunger for learning, but it will only go so far if they’re not receiving proper nutrition.

That’s why Broward College has made solving food insecurity part of its catalog of services available to students.

The Seahawk Marketplace is a 625-square-foot space inside the college’s Davie campus where students can fuel their bodies and minds.

“We wanted it to be a marketplace that they go down the aisle that they choose what they want,” Esmeralda Sweeney, Broward College’s associate vice president of student success, said.

Once a week, students can visit the marketplace and choose from fresh and shelf-stable foods, as well as other essential items, like laundry detergent and toothpaste.

It was designed to alleviate the growing food and financial challenges facing college students, especially as a result of the pandemic.

“K-12, there’s free lunches and everything that comes along with that and just because (college is) the next step in their education, that hunger doesn’t go away magically,” Sweeney said.

The Seahawk Marketplace opened less than one year ago and already, it has served 600 students, with nearly 200 new registrations in September alone.

As part of our “Food for Thought” initiative, Local 10 and Publix showed up with a truckload of food and personal products to fill the shelves—and the void in students’ nutritional needs.

“With it being Hunger Action Month, what a different way to look at hunger,” Publix spokesperson Robyn Hankerson-Printemps said. “We worked with Colgate-Palmolive, a company that truly cares about people, their pets and the planet, to donate dish washing detergent and different items for soap.”

“We’re just really happy to be part of this and appreciate Broward College giving us the opportunity as well,” she added.

Broward College is in the process of opening two more marketplaces at its South and North campuses. For now, the college holds monthly food distributions at these two locations, assisting more than 2,000 students.

“It’s not just a pantry.  It’s a place where the students that are in need feel like they’re not being judged,” Sweeney said. “It’s just a wonderful environment that has been created.”

About the Author:

Mayte Padron Cordones is an Emmy-award winning journalist and the director of WPLG's Community Relations Department, overseeing the station's outreach initiatives to benefit and strengthen the South Florida community.