The Charger Food Pantry is making a difference on all of Georgia Highlands College’s campuses, making sure students have what they need to succeed.

The pantry — open since March — has distributed more than 200 bags of food with the help of student volunteers and the Student Support Services office staff.

Students are allowed to come once a week to pick up bags of food. The pantry also provides toiletry items such as shampoo and toothpaste, along with school supplies such as paper and pens.

Student Support Services staff decided to form the pantry after they noticed some students were going hungry.

“We had some students come in to use the computer lab in our office and we noticed that many of them would mention they were hungry and had no money,” explained Sonja Wright-Smith, disability specialist and career counselor at GHC. “The office staff started purchasing snack items and putting them in bowls around the office.”

Then, Student Support Ser­vices Director Angie Wheel­us decided to do some­thing a little more in depth.

“She looked into ways we could help,” explained Wright-Smith. “She decided we could start the food pantry and we refitted one of the rooms in the office with shelves and the food pantry started. Now, all five campuses have one.”

Floyd County’s campus coordinates food purchases and sends boxes to the Cartersville, Douglasville, Marietta and Paulding sites, she added.

Purchases are made using donated money, which comes from staff, faculty and students. Many of the toiletries and school supplies are also donated. Lime-green bins are placed outside the Student Support Services office and across the campus to collect donations.

Anyone interested in donating may either bring items to the campus or call the office at 706-295-6336.

Students are asked to show their GHC ID card and a form before they are given a bag. They may choose 12 items on each visit.

“We want to make sure they have enough food,” said Wright-Smith. “Of course, if there is a crisis of some sort, we will never turn away someone. It has really helped the students. If you are hungry, you can’t concentrate in school.”

Volunteer students help out at the pantry, restocking and making trips with Wheelus to the Atlanta Food Bank to purchase more food when needed.

“Just being a student, I can understand the hardships you face sometimes,” said Damaris Wilson, one of the student ambassadors who makes the trips to purchase food. “I’ve looked at the number of students who don’t have the funds to make it through every day as they pay for gas and school and books.”

Wilson, Wheelus and Lucas Lester, another student volunteer, make the trip to the Atlanta Food Bank about twice a month to restock.

“I think just the fact that we have to restock so often shows that the need is there,” Lester said.

While the group is able to gather most of the food items needed through the food bank, they do especially appreciate donations of items such as feminine products, paper towels, tissues, soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, detergent, notepaper, pens and highlighters.

Several students who have had to use the food pantry said they try to give back whatever they can.

“When I needed something, this was here for me,” explained Tashia White. “So I felt like any time I had something extra, I should give back.”