In the short-time since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, rapid changes in the lives of countless community members have emerged every day. Students may feel the financial brunt of this grinding halt to local economics, as a spike in layoffs ensue in tandem with closures.
Feed Maroon was started by four former students to give struggling Aggies two meals a day until April 28. At 11:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. each day, Feed Maroon invites any student in need of a hot meal to pick up sacked nutritional supplies at the Canteen of the Cavalry Court in Century Square. Students are welcome to show up at either time to get both of their meals at once.
Originally, the idea came from Brian Hall, Shell’s Manager and Supplier of Diversity and Outreach and Small Business Liaison Officer, just one week before the first drive took place. He was staying in College Station when the idea struck him to help out his fellow Aggies.
“Over the course of one night in this town, I thought, ‘I wonder if some of these students need help making ends meet for food,’” Hall said. “We are not here to make participating students feel ‘less than.’ When someone is taking part of a service in a time of need, we need to realize that we all need a hand sometimes.”
Managed by Texas A&M former students and supported through GoFundMe, Feed Maroon stands proudly as an Aggie-centered community endeavor. Hall said that spirit carries the organization to exhibit the A&M core value of selfless service in tangible ways.
“Service to others, putting them in front of us, is why Feed Maroon came together,” Hall said. “Even while we protect ourselves, there are services we can do for others. We are stronger when we lean on each other and deliver.”
To ease any worries, Hall said Feed Maroon is taking steps to ensure the safety of students and volunteers.
“We are mindful of the precautions everyone has to take to stop the spread,” Hall said. “With the measures in place, students will simply pick up their meals with no contact with each other and take the food home to shelter-in-place.”
Austin Fanning, owner of Good Bull Land Company and founding organizer of Feed Maroon, said Brazos County’s shelter-in-place order will not hinder students partaking in the program.
“While the shelter-in-place prevents students from staying and eating at the Cavalry Court as a hotel, this new mandate still allows people to do essential activities, like go get food,” Fanning said. “This is an essential activity and will remain permissible.”
Aside from possible logistical barriers, Fanning said there are potential emotional barriers of students’ adverse reactions to receiving “hand-outs” from a “food drive” — terms which Feed Maroon refutes.
“We just want to make sure students are having good, quality meals and establishing a sense of normalcy in this time,” Fanning said. “In Brazos County, when all of the restaurants and hospitality-related entities closed for safety, about 1,000 Texas A&M students were laid off. If those students were like me in college, I know that they’re hurting for cash now more than ever.”
Biology senior Angelica Carroll is a Feed Maroon participant and mentor for LAUNCH, an organization that works with first generation college students at A&M. Carroll said there is a genuine necessity of Feed Maroon to particular groups of students.
“First generation college students represent a particularly vulnerable population to the effects of COVID-19 because they don't have the foundational knowledge of how to get by on a campus setting from their parents,” Carroll said. “Adding in the monetary strain of a pandemic only worsens their situation.”
Students can contact Aggie Mom and Feed Maroon organizer Marcile Barnett at (713) 826-1538 for information or to sign up for meals.