Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

Official Student Media of Valencia College

Valencia Voice

VCentials Aims To Eliminate Food Insecurity And Stigmas For Valencia Community

VCentials at Valencia College’s West Campus, located in Building 1 Rm 142, provides students with snacks, quick meals, and canned goods. (Olivia Lofaso)

Valencia Volunteers, Student Development and faculty have helped to operate the VCentials food program for the  Valencia community with a goal to reduce food insecurity among students and the stigma surrounding food pantries.

VCentials is a technology-oriented food pantry. The service was first introduced at Valencia College’s West Campus in 2023 but serves students across all campuses. Any students, whether full-time or part-time, can easily access VCentials by signing up online or scanning a QR code using their Valencia Atlas credentials.

A student can begin selecting up to 21 items weekly from any location. Students can choose from products such as fresh produce, canned goods and toiletries. Student Support Food Insecurities and VCentials Director Mando Quetel described the mission of the VCentials  program. He explained, “It’s definitely to try to keep our students enrolled, try to make sure that their GPA’s are as high as we can definitely have them. We want our students successful and the last thing (Valencia College) wants is for there to ever be a food insecurity issue that stops them from completing (their degree).” 

The VCentials program evolved from the former “Pooky’s Pantry” which served the Valencia community for over a decade, initially stemming from a food insecurity need shared  by students. After applying for a grant by the Florida Blue Foundation, Valencia College  received a $400,000 grant to be used to battle food insecurity among students by building a modernized pantry service that not only provides students with essential products free of charge but creates a friendly environment with the hopes of removing stigmas regarding food pantries.

 Many students and those working with VCentials agree that it is an imperative program. Student Leader Skyye Brooks began working with the VCentials program this Spring term and, like many students, learned about the service through Valencia’s Financial Aid programs. Brooks described the VCentials program and its impact, saying, “I know as a student leader what makes staff more excited about this job is to see that we can really help people in need. When they come in, they say ‘we can eat tonight’. It just brings joy and a true pleasure to our hearts.”

Various organizations locally and nationally have continued to donate and partner with VCentials  such as Publix, the Valencia College Foundation, American Heart Association and more recently the Miss America Organization

First-year Nursing student Ethan Medina shared his experience with VCentials at West Campus. Medina said, “My friend had told me about the program, and we went after class once. It was busier than I thought it would be. There were just a lot of students picking up food. It was great to see, and it’s there for people who need it. Even if it’s just picking up a snack or  water.”

As Valencia College takes steps to eliminate food insecurity across the school, Quetel described how VCentials has inspired other colleges and universities as well.

“I can tell you that folks from neighboring colleges actually have come to us recently. They are very interested in getting a version of VCentials for their own college or university,” he continued. “We looked at it like we’re opening the door to allow others to see how it can possibly be done.”

Food insecurity among college students has become increasingly more of a reality. Many students are not only struggling financially, but not adhering to a nutritional diet as a result. According to  2019-2020 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study data, 22.6% or approximately 3.9  million undergraduate students report low or very low food security. Another survey conducted by Journal of American College health reports, only four percent of students met daily refined grain requirements with even fewer meeting other dietary requirements such as saturated fat guidelines. 

At Valencia College, a 2021 survey conducted by Valencia College reported that around 40 percent of Valencia’s students reported food insecurity.  Quetel and other VCentials volunteers encourage students college-wide to stop by and learn more about the program. “Stop by on a Monday around 12:00 p.m., and you will understand there is no stigma. VCentials is for the Valencia community, please use it.”

VCentials at West Campus is a  grocery store-esque area located in Building 1 Rm 142 and is open during class terms, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It includes shelves of products, a staff of students and small areas with chairs and tables to foster a welcoming atmosphere for both students and staff.

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