Free breakfast program begins

Hot meals served to 100 students per day at Brix

By Michael Santone, Associate Editor

Helping to further alleviate the food insecurities of students on campus, Contra Costa College Student Life Coordinator Joel Nickelson-Shanks has launched the free breakfast program.

Finalized on Friday to begin Feb. 26, the weekly program will provide a hot meal Monday-Thursday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Brix cafe in the Student Dining Hall. CCC culinary students will prepare the food.

“Food insecurities are a big issue for our students and we (faculty and staff) want to help so that students can focus on school and not have to deal with being hungry,” Nickelson-Shanks said. “We created the food pantry a year ago for students to take food home but realized that it doesn’t help get them through the day.”

The program, which is being funded by equity and institutional effectiveness funds, will receive $20,000 for the 2018 spring and fall semesters.

This gives an allotted amount of $10,000 per semester with the goal of serving 100 students per day on a first come, first served basis.

Nickelson-Shanks said because it is difficult to determine whether a student is suffering a financial burden, everyone is qualified to utilize the free breakfast program.

“In the future we would like to work something out with EOPS (Extended Opportunity Programs and Services) and aim for the more needy student,” he said. “The idea is to start off slowly and (later) fix the details.”

Keeping in mind the atmosphere and stigma associated with students who receive free breakfast or lunch, Nickelson-Shanks said searching for the right location and vendor took some time to sort out.

“We had to find a vendor who could give us a price point that we could work at,” he said. “It’s crazy expensive when you start to calculate all of the components that come with the free breakfast program.”

Nickelson-Shanks said Brix and the culinary department were considered but because Brix was offering a higher price point, the culinary department was chosen.

“I’m expecting push back and complaints, but it comes with the territory,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s really the students who are the primary focus.”

A ticket system corresponding to the day of the week will be issued from the Student Life Office in SA-109 once the program is launched.

Although the food will be prepared by the culinary department, it will be served in the Student Dining Hall.

CCC culinary department Chairperson Nader Sharks said that the idea for a free breakfast program is a great move to help the under served community.

“These are all of our students and it’s good for them to have homemade food made by students,” he said. “Breakfast is the backbone of the day and important for the functions of students.”

Some meal ideas include pancakes, waffles, eggs, turkey sausage and some sort of fruit, Sharks said. The main goal is keeping the costs low to meet Nickelson-Shanks’ budget.

“I don’t need to make money off students,” Sharks said. “There’s a lot of leverage when creating something for a $1. But its not the value it’s the thought that counts.”

Sharks said since there isn’t much wiggle room in the budget, finding vendors who would participate was the challenge.

“If you need something you have to be creative and give them a story,” he said. “My vendors believe the program is good, and my students believe this is a good program.”

Sharks said, “Students are excited because they are doing something for the community.”

CCC Dean of Equity and Institutional Effectiveness Mayra Padilla said she was thrilled when Nickelson-Shanks proposed the free breakfast program.

“The program is funded for a year and afterward it will be evaluated for a decision on further funding,” she said. “Our state chancellor has identified homeless students as a target population for equity initiative and we thought this would be a good way to increase the retention of our homeless students by helping support their food insecurities.”