A student walks absentmindedly toward a table, placing a plate with a half-eaten hamburger lying on its side, french fries scattered across it and a few drops of ketchup. Seconds later, another student approaches the table, their eyes on a different plate and their hands reaching for the leftovers. They nibble on the fries, grateful to quiet their growling stomach.
Thirty-five percent of Clark students have faced housing and food insecurity within the past year according to a survey of Clark students last quarter. In addition to the college’s new food pantry, which opened officially last fall, administrators are seeking new tactics.
A scrounge table may be a solution.
Scrounge tables, a design implemented at Reed College, are places where people put their unfinished food for others’ consumption.
“It helps students who are food insecure, people who aren’t getting enough to eat,” Reed College Director of Communications Kevin Myers said.
The scrounge table, Myers said, has been at Reed for decades and continues to serve as a valuable resource for students.
Myers said there’s a notion that if you’re a college student facing food insecurity, it’s just a part of life. He said he believes it shouldn’t be that way, and Reed’s scrounge table and food pantry help.
“I think it’s there for people that need it,” Walker Bolan, a senior student at Reed, said. “If I’m in the position where I don’t need to use the scrounge, I think, ‘might as well save the good food for people who do’”
According to Sophia Varaty, a freshman at Reed, the scrounge table is a huge part of the community so people use it responsibly.
“There are definitely people who use the scrounge and don’t need to,” Varaty said. “And I think that’s very frowned upon within the community.”
While this system works at Reed, there’s no guarantee something similar could be implemented at Clark College.
“As an administrator, unfortunately most of my job is thinking about what’s the worst thing that could happen and having to work backwards from there to protect the greater good,” Dean of Student Engagement Cath Busha said.
Busha said they’re not professionally opposed to the idea, but would have to think of every outcome that could occur and what needs to happen to create it.
According to Busha, getting the scrounge table implemented would first take a written proposal outlining what they would do, how it would be sustained, who would be in charge of it, where it would be placed and more. Then, someone must think about all the worst things that could happen and how they would be addressed.
“Change takes time,” Estancia Cota, the program assistant of Clark’s penguin pantry said. “It’s not because the institution doesn’t want to move as fast as they can, they just want to make sure they address the situation and address it accurately.”
Some Clark students said they thought highly of potentially adding a scrounge table.
“I think it’s a great idea,” student Monica Oucatero said. “Because there are a lot of people who have the struggle of getting a place to stay at or having a struggle with getting food.”
Student Nick Campbell said it would nurture a sense of community. “You have both the people who are providing the food, who don’t necessarily need it, they’re helping other people which is what a community should be like,” he said.
Chase Rogers, another Clark student, said he notices a lot of food being wasted in the garbage.
“There’s no point in throwing it away, we can give to somebody,” Rogers said.
At a forum on May 8, staff and students contributed possible ideas for the future of insecurity and discussed solutions to this campus-wide issue.
“I think through advocacy, especially from students, it would happen much faster,” Cota said. “If students were to approach the administration and say ‘hey, this is what we need,’ I think that’s something students need to understand, is the amount of power they have to change stuff on campus.”