Photo Credits: Justin Han / Aggie. The Pantry at Memorial Union during Winter Quarter 2020.
The Pantry adapts its services to continue combating food insecurity and to supply basic necessities to students
The conditions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have had a negative impact on many facing food insecurity, including UC Davis students. Many students have been left unemployed or have had reduced work hours, causing financial strain. These effects can be further exacerbated by natural disasters, such as the storm on Jan. 26 that caused power outages throughout Davis for several days.
In response to the power outages, the ASUCD Pantry provided short-term emergency food aid while maintaining its food distribution program. The Pantry continues to provide food and hygiene products to UC Davis students as part of their mission to ensure that no student has to go without basic necessities due to financial reasons.
According to Ryan Choi, the director of the ASUCD Pantry, a widespread power outage like the one the Davis community faced after the storm can cause spoilage of perishable food, can impact food preparation activities such as microwaving ready-to-eat foods and can put financial strain on individuals who are unable to obtain new groceries in a timely manner. To help combat this, the Pantry supplied the Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center with dry foods from its inventory to distribute to UC Davis students.
The Pantry also maintained its daily Grab-n-Go food distribution program which enables students to order up to 40 food items online and pick them up on campus. The Pantry handled a 138.8% surge in food and basic necessity orders for pick up on Thursday, Jan. 28, and Friday, Jan. 29, in comparison to previous Thursdays and Fridays that month.
“Every student facing food insecurity has a unique experience,” Choi said via email. “The current conditions of the pandemic have exacerbated the detrimental effects of food insecurity for many students, leading some who may not have felt the need to access the Pantry to begin utilizing our services. We are here to welcome anyone in need and to ensure that no Aggie goes hungry.”
The Pantry has altered its food distribution model during the pandemic in order to better fit the needs of students. Before the pandemic, it served up to 1,050 students every day and utilized an equality-based model with a limit of five items for each student per day. Now, it utilizes an equity-based model where any student, regardless of income or citizenship status, can order up to 40 items in advance via their website.
“We were able to make this shift because strengthened collaborations with our campus and community partners make donating to the Pantry an incredible investment: every $10 donated provides 30 meals worth of food through the Pantry,” Choi said via email. “90% of our funding comes from community support and we are trying to raise $100,000 in preparation for a return to in-person learning in fall 2021.”
Choi stated that the Pantry needs help spreading the word that they are open and ready to serve anyone who would like fresh groceries and basic necessities. More information about how to contribute can be found on their website and social media pages.
The Pantry receives additional assistance from the ASUCD senators who have chosen the Pantry as their adopted unit. Laura Elizalde, a fourth-year political science major, has been one of the Pantry’s adopted Senators for the past three quarters.
“I decided to adopt the Pantry as one of my units because I am passionate about basic needs and felt I had much to learn regarding food insecurity,” Elizalde said. “I’ve consciously chosen to continue working with them because I’m inspired by the hard work put in by the entire team to ensure students are assisted, beyond just access to food. Students should not have to face hunger or worry about when they might receive their next meal, and that is exactly what the Pantry helps prevent.”
Elizalde has worked with other ASUCD senators to put out a survey to better understand the impact of the power outages on the student population.
“From a personal experience and from conversations with close friends, the outages impacted students both academically and with regards to basic needs,” Elizalde said. “I’m hopeful that once our survey is complete we’ll have a more comprehensive list of ways students were impacted to prevent these situations moving forward.”
Michael Navarro, a first-year political science-public service major, is another one of the Pantry’s adopted ASUCD senators. Navarro continues to volunteer with the Pantry two hours a week, as well as meet with leaders of the Pantry and Aggie Compass, to discuss students’ basic needs. Despite the distance that must be observed because of COVID-19 guidelines, Navarro stated that the connection between volunteers and students remains.
“You get to see the students being thankful for what they get,” Navarro said. “It’s a nice demonstration, in my opinion, of how the Pantry works. Even though we’re in this pandemic, the level of gratefulness hasn’t decreased.”
Navarro also highlighted the Pantry’s ongoing projects. He stated that Ryan Choi advocated for volunteers and staff members to be eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The Pantry is also currently working on renovations allowing them to have a larger space. Lastly, although they are closed for the time being, the ASUCD Coffee House has allowed the Pantry to use their refrigerators, enabling the Pantry to expand their supply lists to include cold products.
“The Pantry is a big supporter within the community in terms of wanting to directly help the students,” Navarro said.”They’re trying to have that one-on-one connection with the students; they want to see the students thrive, and they want to make sure that students have everything they need. They don’t want them to carry any other burdens that’s not education or academic related. The Pantry is important because they help students lift some weight off their shoulders.”
Written by: Liana Mae Atizado— email@example.com