A not-so-secret ST.A.S.H. for those in need

Students have been told for generations that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Before taking a test, students are told to eat a balanced meal to avoid an embarrassing growl. So, how may one focus on their education with an empty stomach?

Students Against Student Hunger (ST.A.S.H.) is a food drive for students in need. Juan Ornelas, president of ST.A.S.H., took it upon himself to try and help the less fortunate and has started the club to focus on feeding destitute students attending Pierce College.

Although still in its start-up stage of development, just getting chartered last week, ST.A.S.H. is already gaining some traction among students. During club rush, the group had received more than 100 signatures from students showing their support.

The club is focusing its attention on establishing a smooth system of both collecting and distributing food to hungry students.

“It’s an involving effort. The need is there. There are students that are hungry, and I’m certain that among our community members there is excess, that is food that could be had for them. The problem is connecting the two and that is what the club is designed to do: connect excess with those who are in need,” Club advisor, Christopher Lay, said.

The club wants to establish food boxes around campus to gather enough resources to start handing out care packages by the end of the semester.

“Our goal is to get 10 bags of food out a week before finals week. We’re doing this through box drives. We get boxes, decorate them, and put them where we are allowed to,” Ornelas said. “This is the easiest way to start up. After we have enough merit to show the campus that we are trying to change the way things work at Pierce, we can advocate for a storage facility where we can have our own pantry, but that’s later in the future.”

ST.A.S.H. has many short and long term goals in mind that they are striving for, which includes starting a website, reaching out to large companies for donations, establishing food storage facilities on campus for distribution, and trying to allocate some of Pierce College’s vast farmland to grow food for those in need.

Ornelas is spearheading development and is in the process of personally reaching out to companies by sending out letters that advocate donations as a form of advertisement.
“Customer loyalty starts in college. If you help students now, later when they do have money to buy your products, they’ll buy it,” Ornelas said. Lay plays an important part for the club, even if it is just for moral support.

“I always wanted to find ways to help, but I was scared to take that leadership role. I was involved in various things, but I always had a safety net because I wasn’t the main guy and I was kind of scared of failing, because I’m scared of not living up to what I say I’m going to do. He [Lee] gave me a little bit more confidence in myself to do more and advocate for things that I believe in,” Ornelas said.

The biggest obstacle for the club, besides ironing out the legalities of handing out food, is actually finding who to give the food out to.

“We know there are 275 homeless students registered as homeless or hungry, and there’s probably a lot more that didn’t want to [register],” Instructor of Political Sciences Denise Robb said. “I’m hoping they’ll allow us to reach out to them, and we’re not going to say ‘Well, we don’t think you’re hungry,’ because we don’t want anyone to be humiliated. We’re not going to make them fill out a paper proving they’re poor. If you’re hungry, you’re hungry.”

S.T.A.S.H hopes the students can take it upon themselves to reach out for help. They are putting in effort to make sure no student is discriminated against in the process of receiving food.

“It doesn’t matter what the reason is, from my perspective, why students are hungry. They need to eat so that they learn well,” Lay said.

The group is looking for more members and meets Thursdays at 2:30 p.m. in the A.S.O office.

“I can’t stop the hate, but I at least want to reduce what’s hateful in this world,” Ornelas said.