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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Solano Park Apartments pantry looks to expand hours

Pantry, Treasure Trove are new programs to benefit student resident families

The Solano Park Apartments Pantry, a space that provides food to local residents, hopes to increase its weekly hours through volunteer engagement. The Solano Pantry began last summer to help fight food insecurity. It is one of three ongoing initiatives, including the Farmers Market Free Farm Fare and the Treasure Trove.

The Yolo Food Bank has supported the Solano Pantry by delivering non-perishable food items to the Solano Park Apartments every Saturday. It also delivers produce donated by farmers market vendors for Free Farm Fare, a project that brings fresh food from the Davis Farmers Market to Solano Park. Another element that makes the Solano Pantry possible is Solano Park Apartments’ partnership with Aggie Compass, as Aggie Compass supports a student worker to cover the regular Thursday shift.

While both Free Farm Fare and the Pantry focus on providing food to residents, Treasure Trove connects residents with items recovered mostly through “From Landfill to Goodwill,” a resource recovery drive that takes place in the residence halls at the end of the academic year. Items include kitchen appliances, such as microwaves, and other items including new bike helmets.

The Treasure Trove fulfills important needs student needs, according to Iracema Rodriguez, a resident advisor at Solano Park Apartments.

“When I arrived with my husband from our country — from Mexico —  we didn’t arrive with anything,” Rodriguez said. “We didn’t have kitchen appliances, so I would [have] liked to have this in place four years ago. The Treasure Trove is so good for the people living here.”

The three programs began when Lisa Papagni, the assistant director of student housing, saw a need within the Solano Park Apartments community.

“For the student community in general, food insecurity is a big issue,” Papagni said.

Papagni went on to describe how the Solano Pantry was founded.

“Yolo Food Bank offered to provide pantry goods for us on a pilot basis to see how it went,” Papagni said. “I had already set aside a pantry space and had it ready in hopes of getting a pantry started, and so we were ready to have that go really any moment that food could be delivered.”

Alicia Marzolf, a second-year clinical nutrition major at UC Davis involved with Free Farm Fare through Food Recovery Network, spoke about seeing the inception of the Solano Pantry while being part of starting Free Farm Fare. Both began with conversations at a Yolo County meeting about food insecurity.

“It kind of just happened that — oh they have this need, and Yolo Food Bank [said] we can fill that need,” Marzolf said. “It was kind of spontaneous.”

The resident assistants support the programs — they are available to open the Solano Pantry and Treasure Trove if residents experience any urgent needs for resources. Residents can also check the Pantry’s hours through the Facebook page.

According to those involved with the Pantry, including Rodriguez, there is a demand for more volunteers. Currently, the Solano Pantry is open twice a week: Thursdays from 12 to 3 p.m. and on Saturday afternoons.

“It’s hard for the mothers to come with kids, and also the students are so busy, so it’s so hard to attract the residents to help,” Rodriguez said. “So, sometimes we come to open — the RA’s [resident advisors] — and yes, we need help. If we can have one person open one more day of the week, or even two more days of the week, it would be good.”

The Solano Pantry and Free Farm Fare are well-used programs at this point, according to Papagni.

“It’s a really popular resource for our student families,” Papagni said. “A lot of families are really utilizing it, so that’s really nice.”

Written by: Anne Fey — city@theaggie.org

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