KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Pellissippi State Community College is raising money, food donations and awareness about its campus resources during National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.

Staff and students packed 75 Thanksgiving baskets on Monday afternoon for students in need. In 2019, 37% of the student body was experiencing food insecurity. The Director of Student Care and Advocacy believes that number has increased since the pandemic.

“Every time we do a pantry distribution our students are so appreciative. To be able to connect the name with the application and see that person and hear how grateful they are,” said Drema Bowers, the Director of Student Care and Advocacy. “A college is a microcosm of the community, so when you see the need in the community, we have the same need here at our college.”

So far this semester, they have already received over 250 referrals.

“Students who maybe are living in their cars, there are students who may be couch surfing, staying with family members or friends. We see the whole gamut,” said Bowers.

Pellissippi State offers several resources to address nonacademic barriers, including scholarships to students experiencing homelessness and a food pantry that serves all five campuses. Community partners, like the Y12 Gives Foundation, provide financial support.

“It can be any of us at any time and so we are here to help each other I think that’s what life is about helping each other,” said Bowers.

Pellissippi State is relocating its pantry to a larger space next semester. The school will also make the switch to a choice pantry, so just like a grocery store people can choose what they need.