The Associated Students, Inc. Senate held a passionate and spirited discussion regarding the addition of a year-round, fully funded ASI Food pantry during its weekly senate meeting on Thursday.

Barnaby Peake, director of the Bronco Student Center, spent the last two weeks preparing a working budget to present to the Senate, and his hope is that the Senate understands the huge need that is being met by providing basic needs such as food to Cal Poly Pomona students.

“Many may see this service as transactional — you take the food and you leave — but our hope is that the food pantry is transformative and helps students overcome the incredible challenges they face when it comes to food insecurity,” Peake said.

The food pantry took steps forward in securing a permanent stay. (Christian Manoukian | The Poly Post)

Peake and Programs Assistant Raheesa Legohn presented a completed budget of almost $140,000 to the Senate.

Two weeks earlier, the Senate voted only to add the food pantry as a line item, so that the time between senate meetings could be utilized by Peake and the BSC to hold conversations with ASI personnel and set a concrete, working budget.

At that time, Peake stated that the budget they were anticipating was approximately $102,000, and the increase in cost caught some members of ASI off-guard.

“I really think the requested amount of money is very excessive for an operation that we haven’t even physically seen yet, and we seem to be basing a lot of our calculations off of how other universities have gone about this process rather than tailoring it to our campus,” said ASI Secretary of External Affairs Gustavo Callejas.

However, Callejas is not a member of the Senate.

His interjection from the audience was pacified by multiple members of the Senate, many of whom had spent time specifically working on initiatives toward creating a permanent food pantry on campus.

“It’s an emotional moment for me because this has been so long in the making, and it’s my belief that we need to get behind this initiative fully and that the time is now for our food pantry to become a reality,” said ASI Vice President Carlos Gomez.

Peake and Legohn set forth a detailed and comprehensive plan for the creation of a permanent food pantry, and this seemed to dispel most of the questions Senate members had regarding its creation.

They began by contrasting the features and functions of the monthly pop-up food pantry that is currently in place with the envisioned features of the permanent food pantry.

According to Peake, the monthly mobile food pantry receives, on average, around 330 people.

For the mobile food pantry, the goal is to give out two bags filled with groceries and toiletries to each attendee present.

Barnaby Peake presented a budget for a sustainable food pantry. (Christian Manoukian | The Poly Post)

However, Peake imagines that if a full-time food pantry were to be established, the daily flow of people coming for supplies would decrease, and they wouldn’t need a bagging goal anymore because they would have a consistent flow of supplies from participating organizations and companies.

“Naturally, if we are always around, we won’t see a three-hundred person rush each day; rather, we will see a more steady flow of students coming in whenever a need arises,” Peake said.

Peake also noted that organizing the monthly food pantry is extremely labor-intensive, from putting up tables, tents, and chairs to packing the finished grocery bags.

They usually require about 40-60 volunteers each month to make the mobile food pantry a success.

However, Peake plans on having a full-time coordinator overseeing the permanent food pantry, as well as two full-time student employees and a network of potential volunteers.

They have budgeted $129,729 for staff salaries and benefits, with about $25,000 allotted for the student workers, with the rest going towards professional staff.

Peake says the proposed operating plan is to be open 6 days a week, Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., for a total of 33 hours.

They plan on collecting food donations from local food banks, conducting canned food drives on campus, and reaching out to grocery stores and other community organizations for help in stocking the food pantry, although Peake admitted there is still work to be done in formalizing agreements with these entities.

ASI’s focus is to establish the food pantry in a convenient location, preferably in the BSC, as this is one of the highest-traffic areas on campus

Peake recommended the BSC’s Pegasus suite be used, as the location is “what we can get done very quickly and smoothly to make sure we have the food pantry up and running by the fall semester.”

According to ASI President Farris Hamza, the informational presentation was a productive gateway into the process of receiving approval by all relevant agencies to begin construction on the permanent food pantry for fall semester.

The next ASI Senate meeting will take place at 4 p.m. next Thursday in the England Evans suite in the BSC.

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