CSUB Food Pantry expands, and needs your help more than ever

 

Joshua Dhanens portrait

Keith Alvidrez, one of two CSUB Food Pantry graduate student leaders, carries baskets of fresh produce that he’d picked up at local farmers markets to a table where it will be offered to students.

BY CHRISTINE BEDELL
Alumni Engagement Specialist
cbedell1@csub.edu

CSUB senior Autumn Garcia says being a full-time student during the week and working on the weekends is not a great recipe for eating a healthy diet.

Fresh produce can be expensive and goes bad if you don’t eat it in time, and wasting money just isn’t an option for a psychology major who earns minimum wage as a receptionist, she says.

So Garcia visits the new CSUB Pop-up Produce Pantry, an expansion of the CSUB Food Pantry that was established in September 2017 to address food-insecurity concerns on campus. The produce comes from vendors at the weekly Haggin Oaks and F Street farmers markets and is stored in refrigerators recently donated by Valley Bible Fellowship.

“I eat a lot more fruit now, which is really great,” Garcia said one recent chilly Monday morning before picking through the pluots, baby carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, apples and zucchini being offered at the pantry.

Students at produce pantry

CSUB students pick up produce items including pluots, baby carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, green beans, apples and zucchini at the Pop-up Produce Pantry one recent Monday morning.

Donations help make CSUB’s food pantries possible, and they’re needed more than ever. An average 360 people, almost all of them students, use the food pantry each week. That’s up from an average 195 people last school year.

An average 100 people use the Pop-up Produce Pantry, which was the result of a partnership between CSUB and the Haggin Oaks Farmers Market that also involved support from the Apple Core Project (a local volunteer group) and Kaiser Permanente.

Every student has a different story for why he or she visits the pantry, but all the stories have the same general theme: Students grapple with all kinds of time and money pressures and being able to pick up quality food once a week relieves some of that pressure.

About 77 percent of CSUB students receive Pell Grants to pay for school. Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduates with an exceptional financial need.

Maria Espinoza at pantry

Maria Espinoza is a volunteer at, and user of, the CSUB Food Pantry and Pop-Up Produce Pantry. Here she is transferring produce from new, donated refrigerators inside the Food Pantry outside to tables set up for food distribution. 

For student Maria Espinoza, who lives in the dorms, it’s nice to have pantry items on hand for those times class schedules conflict with dining facility hours. For student Romola Falajiki, who lives off campus, the availability of olive oil and chicken broth helps her afford to cook good meals at home.

And there’s no shame in regularly visiting the pantry, Falajiki said.

“There would be a stigma if it was open to just certain people,” the senior studying human biology said. “But since it’s open to everyone, there’s really no stigma attached to it.”

Last year, those who attended the Alumni Association’s inaugural Holiday Mixer at the Padre Hotel brought a whopping 466 items for the pantry, both food and hygiene items. The association hopes to top that number – in addition to giving alumni and friends a good time atop the hotel’s popular Prairie Fire Lounge. (See infobox)

“The holidays are a time for friends, family and peers to come together. We all know that an abundance of good food is certainly one of the main attractions that bring us together during the holidays,” said Paul Caudillo, chairman of the Alumni Association Membership Committee. “As fortunate as we are, we must not forget that food is not an unlimited resource—not in our community and not on our campus here at CSU Bakersfield.”



FOOD PANTRY WISH LIST

The CSUB Food Pantry is stocked with items purchased from the Community Action Partnership of Kern Food Bank and the Golden Empire Gleaners, as well as donations from community members. You can help by bringing non-perishable food or hygiene items to the 2nd Annual CSUB Alumni Association Holiday Mixer at the Padre Hotel. You can get your tickets on Eventbrite.

Here’s what the pantry most needs:

  • Salad dressing
  • Peanut butter and jelly
  • Unfrozen microwavable meals, i.e. rice bowls, noodles
  • Canned soups and vegetables
  • Cereal
  • Oil (olive, canola)
  • Pasta and pasta sauce
  • Rolled oats
  • Spices
  • Honey or maple syrup
  • Soy sauce
  • Canned chicken or tuna
  • Chicken or vegetable broth
  • Rice
  • Boxed macaroni and cheese
  • Beans
  • Snacks (granola bars, fruit cups, pudding cups, popcorn, chips, crackers)
  • Holiday items EXCEPT cranberry sauce and green beans. It has enough!