By Jake Altinger, News Editor

The American Red Cross Professors recently honored professor Ann-Marie Manning and Dr. Tiko Hardy with their Hometown Hero Award for their work launching and leading the Mobile Food Pantry program at PPCC. The award honors individuals, businesses and nonprofits who have made a significant difference in the community through courage, kindness, and selfless action.

Both Manning and Hardy said they were very humbled to receive the award and expressed enormous gratitude to their volunteers and everyone else who makes the project possible.

“No one gets awards like this by themselves,” Manning said.  “We have a lot of volunteers here. The leadership team, starting with Dr. Bolton, has been amazingly supportive. BPS division – the division that social work falls under – has been incredibly supportive. We’ve had a lot of help.”

Hardy said it was “a blessing to be recognized,” but “there’s no way [they] could do this by [themselves].”

“We get the awards, we get the pick-em-up, but by no means do we do all the work.” Hardy said. “Everybody from students to faculty to staff to administrators – everybody is pitching in.”

On the third Monday of every month, hundreds of people from the Pikes Peak community file through the Centennial Campus Atrium to receive their share of thousands of pounds of free food from the PPCC Mobile Food Pantry and their partner Care and Share.

This week, the program distributed 12,400 pounds of food – the largest amount in the program’s short history. The program launched last September by giving away 4,500 pounds of food and more than doubled that the next month with over 10,000 pounds of food in October. More than 4,300 people have received food through the program since its launch.

Manning and Hardy were inspired to start the program after PPCC President Dr. Lance Bolton first made them aware of a study which found that 20 to 40 percent of community college students nationwide grappled with food insecurity. Manning said based on the study’s data, roughly 5,000 – 6,000 students at PPCC are food insecure.

“That kind of shocked people,” Hardy said.

As social workers, Hardy and Manning felt it was their duty to tackle the problem.

“As a nation, we’re really divided about who we feel deserves and who we feel doesn’t deserve,” Manning said. “I believe everyone deserves quality food. That’s a basic human need.”

Manning also emphasized that food insecurity is indeed an academic issue as well.

“When students are hungry, they’re not learning,” Manning said.

While both Manning and Hardy hesitate to take too much credit for the program’s success, PPCC Marketing Director Warren Epstein believes they absolutely deserve the Red Cross’s recognition.

“I nominated Ann-Marie and Tiko because they’re the doers,” Epstein said. “We can identify a need and something we should be doing. But until you have people like them who own it and do the hard work to create partnerships and get this done, it’s just a lot of hopes and plans.”

Manning and Hardy hope to see the Mobile Food Pantry continue to expand the amount of food it distributes and number of people it serves and go from a pilot to a permanent monthly program at PPCC. They also recently received a $10,000 donation from the El Pomar Foundation for that very purpose.

The next Mobile Food Pantry will take place on Monday, Mar. 19 in the Centennial Atrium at 11 a.m.