By EILEEN QIU
Tucked away within the bowels of Cal Poly Pomona’s Bronco Student Center are the makings of a permanent food pantry. BSC Director Barnaby Peake hopes to transform the forgotten Pegasus room on the first floor of the BSC into a food pantry with a new commercial-grade fridge, accessible Monday through Saturday. The $147,000 endeavor began as a result of a 2016 study on student hunger done by members from the CSU which found around 42 percent of students experience some type of food insecurity.
Food insecurity, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, can be defined as the inability to consistently access or afford adequate food.
CPP started a mobile food pantry that comes once a month during U-hour in partnership with Sowing Seeds for Life in 2017, but Peake hopes the permanent one on campus will provide students with easier access and take away the wait time in case the food from the mobile pantry isn’t enough. The mobile pantry only provides nonperishable goods, but Peake said the permanent one will provide both nonperishable and perishable items and even toiletries.
The mobile food pantry will still come once a month this fall, but Peake hopes the campus will no longer need it after the permanent one opens. The permanent pantry will be run by one coordinator and two paid student assistants with volunteers and future staff depending on need. There is no set date for a grand opening, but Peake said the wheels will start turning once the coordinator is selected and inspectors clear the room of any possible health and safety violations.
“The next logical step from a mobile food pantry is a permanent one,” Peake said.
He said the Farm Store and Foundation Dining Services agreed to donate goods from their shelves, but hopes to make deals with local grocery stores and campus colleges will host food drives too. All students are welcome to visit the pantry, but Peake said there might be a weekly limit for what students can pick up based on what foods are available.
One of the many challenges is how to transport possible food donations from markets and other banks to campus.
“We’re separate from the university, so we don’t have all the resources like big trucks. ASI only has two little golf carts,” Peake said.
Peake hopes the service and the support is transformative rather than transactional. One of his worries is that the pantry becomes a permanent fixture on the campus because it would mean a continuation of students facing food insecurity.
“Transformative means we’re working with students who are coming in, so maybe it’s a time of crisis for them, but we hope they transform out of it,” Peake said.
Transforming out of it could be going to other resources such as Cal Fresh, which is a statewide program and not a pantry from campus with limited food options.
ASI could also connect visitors to the pantry with CPP career services or other need-based services and help them get internships or jobs that would wean them off dependence of the food pantry.
Students have their own opinions about the pantry too.
Arianne Coleto is a graphic design major and has been working for ASI as the BEAT Art Program Supervisor. She thinks the food pantry will be good for the campus because it’ll allow opportunities for the student body to connect with ASI through volunteering.
“I believe it’s a really good initiative for the benefit of all students; food on campus is convenient but expensive, so this would ease the burden,” Coleto said.
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