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Cuesta food pantry combats student hunger


Cuesta joins other colleges and universities to offer a well-stocked food pantry for student.
Photos by Josh Pachio / Cuestonian Staff Photographer

By Clara Applegarth
Features Editor

Hunger is a problem people address around the world — however, students don’t need to look any farther than Cuesta’s campus to find those in need of food.

In the past, SLO Food Bank has coupled with Cuesta to help students in need at monthly distributions in both the North County and SLO campuses.

Yet officials realized that a once-a-month distribution is sometimes not enough for students who come to or leave school hungry.

In order to try to reduce the hunger of students on campus, Cuesta recently opened a food pantry that students can access throughout the week; an opportunity several community colleges and universities in the state have been taking to alleviate the problem.

Students excitedly lined up on the pantry’s opening day, April 11 to choose items from shelves lined with macaroni and cheese, soy milk, and more. Not only can students select take-home items, but students are able to pick up ready-to-eat meals that can be easily made in the microwave in the cafeteria.

“I’m self supporting,” said Yotam Yellin, 20 year old economics major. “Any help I can get helps so much and touches my heart truly.”

Currently, only enrolled Cuesta students have access to utilize the pantry and requires a student ID login.

Student hunger has been a recurring trend in recent years, according to local and national data. It’s a complicated issue.

The number of students who get supplies from the monthly distribution on campus demonstrated to officials that there was a need for something more.

“Sixty to seventy-five students come to the monthly food bank distributions held in the parking lot in a three hour window,” said Gabe Lavezzi, vice president of the ASCC. “This indicates that we do have students in need of basic nutrition on campus.”

When Cuesta ASCC last surveyed students about the need for food, 200 students reported they would utilize the help if it was provided. In the first year (2016-17) of food bank distributions, over 1,000 students were served.

Whether students are unable to work an extra shift to make sure they get in enough study time, making sure their children get fed, or if textbook fees cut into a grocery budget, student hunger has been a reoccurring trend in the recent years.

Cuesta’s numbers reflect nationwide statistics illustrating student hunger.

Seventy-one percent of college students surveyed by The Wisconsin HOPE Lab reported that grocery budgets and meals have changed from lack of funds.

Twenty-seven percent of students said, “In the past month, they did not have enough money to buy food, ate less than they felt they should, or cut the size of their meals because there was not enough money.”

The food pantry is filled with food supplied from Costco and Smart and Final like quinoa, peanut butter, pasta, and will soon be supplying fresh produce as well.

“I think it’s something that’s reoccurring,” said Anthony Gutierrez, faculty coordinator of the student life and leadership office. “We don’t want our students hungry.”

According to Gutierrez, Cuesta received a one time state allocation, under the 2017-18 Hunger Free Campus Support, that will allow the campus to make sure students have food security.

The district received a grant of $17,919 under the 2017-18 Hunger-Free Campus Support bill.

The district was given a grant of $17,919 under the 2017-18 Hunger Free Campus Support. This was a bill the state of California created under which California public universities, and community colleges are given funding to create food security for students, which includes food pantries.

The ASCC has also provided funding for food pantry purchases.

“We saw this as an opportunity to offer students a food pantry on campus,” Gutierrez said.

Camri Wilson, outreach director of the ASCC, is a single parent who frequently utilizes the small pantry in the cafeteria and the monthly food bank distributions.

“It helps me so much,” Wilson said. “Fruits and vegetables are very difficult to come by. It helps for the extra nutrients for my kids.”

There are currently 15 food distribution boxes located across the campus that students and faculty alike can contribute to help the food pantry.

The pantry allows students to take one to three items at a time, and even leave suggestions as to what food the pantry should purchase in the future.

A food pantry will be added to the North County Campus in Fall of 2018, according to Gutierrez.

Hours of the pantry are: Monday, 2:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Tuesday, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm Wednesday, 8:30 to 10:30 am Thursday, 10:00am to 2:00pm. Members of the ASCC help run the stocked pantry.

In addition to the food pantry, SLO Food Bank will still be holding monthly distributions in the parking lot at both campuses.

“Sometimes I spend $50 to $100 for food,” said Sarah Moore, 20 year old electrical engineering major. “That doesn’t necessarily get everything I need. I’m trying to save money to go to Cal Poly so it’s great.”