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Davis

Davis, California

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Pantry fights student hunger

NADIA DORIS / AGGIE
NADIA DORIS / AGGIE

The UC Davis Pantry provides food assistance, scholarships to students in need

The Pantry, located in Lower Freeborn Hall, is UC Davis’ student-run food unit that provides food assistance to students who are unable to acquire the proper amount of food necessary on a daily basis.

Starting out as a student initiative in 2010, The Pantry opened its doors in 2011, and now works as a unit of ASUCD.

“In the beginning it was created by just a handful of students because a survey pointed out that many students were struggling psychologically because of the burden of having to deal with financial need,” said Maria Wong, third-year pharmaceutical chemistry major and assistant director of The Pantry.

Since its creation, The Pantry’s mission has been to serve students who are seeking a higher education but are affected by the inability to afford a meal.

Distribution is based on the honors system; The Pantry would rather help all students rather than none at all. And although The Pantry never turns a student away, its goal is to cater to students who have absolutely no resources to feed themselves.

“Initially, The Pantry was created only by a handful of students,” Wong said. “They would get food from bulk stores and they would have to put in

NADIA DORIS / AGGIE
NADIA DORIS / AGGIE

their own money in order to have food to offer. From then we’ve actually expanded our services, and right now we don’t have to go to bulk stores because we have our partnership with Yolo Food Bank from whom we get subsidized foods.”

The Pantry has formed partnerships with local food banks in order to bring resources to students in need, and in 2014 it introduced its quarterly scholarships program. To be considered for one of three $250 gift cards, students must complete both an application and interview process.

As well as support from food banks, The Pantry also receives occasional donations from companies like Family Dollar or Sodexo, which currently run all dining operations on the UC Davis campus. Its inventory consists of a variety of prepackaged foods such as ramen, canned vegetables, canned fruit cups and pasta.

“They often don’t know where their next meal is coming from and sometimes are in situations where they have to choose between buying a textbook or buying dinner,” said Bharathi Gandi, fourth-year nutrition science major and external affairs intern at The Pantry.

The Emergency Food Assistance Loan Program is a partnership between the unit and Yolo County Food Bank in which students can receive a ten point bag of food after signing up. Since it is a federally funded program, it is separate from most other Pantry programs.

The Pantry also ensures a CalFresh representative is available at the unit on Mondays and Thursdays to speak to students who feel they need personal help getting food. CalFresh is a government program that provides financial assistance for citizens that cannot afford groceries based on their income.

NADIA DORIS / AGGIE
NADIA DORIS / AGGIE

Third-year biological sciences major and internal director of The Pantry Jessica Bee said that the amount of food that the unit distributes would not be possible without the local food bank partners and local student apartments.

Many of the apartment complexes in the city of Davis host food drives for residents to participate in that they give to The Pantry. This is especially necessary, as The Pantry helps between 50 to 60 students a day with food on average.

With an increasing amount of students seeking help from The Pantry, Bee stressed the help and support that student volunteers provide. The number of volunteers is so high that The Pantry has begun assigning students as quarterly volunteers, switching them out with others when a new quarter starts.

Food distribution to students is based on a point system in which students are given three points. The different items are labeled from one to three points, based on the serving size of the item. Students pick items to build up to three points for their food assistance. The Pantry does not allow students to pick more than one of any item to ensure that everyone has a varied choice of food.

“We’re trying to help make them get a meal off of those three points,” Gandi said. “We try to give out mostly healthy stuff, but it is based on our donations. We have fresh produce on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays. Fridays are Fruit and Veggie Up, where we get fresh produce directly from the Nugget Markets — which is also available at the Student Health and Wellness Center.”

The Pantry is open Monday through Thursday from 10 to 1 a.m. and 4 to 6 p.m.

Written by: Amanda Cruz — features@theaggie.org

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