A desire to give back to the community. That’s what drives MiraCosta College students, some of them suffering with food insecurity themselves, to volunteer countless hours at the MiraCosta Farmers Market that’s feeding hundreds of financially pressed students each month.
“We grew up pretty poor and we’ve benefitted from services like this in the past, so it makes sense to turn around and help out in turn,” said MiraCosta College student Edgar Herrera, 32. “There are a lot of people in need. It’s an amazing thing what MiraCosta College does for students and the community.”
MiraCosta College provides plenty of opportunities to volunteer and benefit. Through a campus-wide collaboration with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego, MiraCosta College offers a free, monthly food distribution program known as Farmer’s Market for You
, in addition to a pantry overseen by the Campus Assessment, Resources & Education (CARE) Program that offers case management assistance and referrals to students experiencing food insecurity and other basic needs concerns.
“These students have embodied what it means to be a part of a culture of care and support,” said Devon Boone, director of the CARE Program. This culture of supporting students is fundamental to the work we do in the CARE Program, so it is a beautiful thing to see when students we serve come full circle to serve others in need.”
A returning student who earned an associate degree in general studies in 2004, Nicole Walls, is now enrolled in the MiraCosta College Social Work and Human Services program. She learned about the farmers market through her work as a peer educator and began volunteering almost immediately. Out of work and on disability, she has also relied on the Farmer’s Market to help feed her and her family of five.
“This has really helped me,” said Walls, who also has volunteered at several vaccination sites. “It is a huge benefit. You can pick up fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, dry goods, canned goods, I just can’t stress enough about how wonderful a resource this is. As for the volunteer work, I really enjoy being able to give back. It’s heartwarming to see the smiles on people’s faces when they get their bags with groceries that are enough to feed them for a few days.”
Renee Costa agrees. The 32-year-old returning student will be transferring to Cal State, San Marcos in the fall for a bachelor’s degree in human development with an emphasis in counseling en route to a master’s degree in social work. She started volunteering last semester while serving as a peer educator for Mental Health Services. “I just wanted to give back to the community. It feels good to give back.”
“It takes a lot of people to put the distributions together and MiraCosta College is doing a really good job in getting the word out,” Costa continued. “It’s really wonderful to see how the community has come together.”
Herrera has been volunteering for much of his life including feeding the hungry at Brother Benno’s Soup Kitchen in Oceanside. Like Walls and Costa, he engages in everything from setting up food distribution sites to packing bags with donated food and carrying the groceries to students who walk or drive up.
“I’ve always loved helping out in any way I can,” Herrera said. “I also have three kids and we’ve benefitted ourselves. The food we’ve received has gone a long way. It’s just a wonderful opportunity all around.”