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Davis, California

Friday, March 1, 2024

Aggies in the Area: Harleen Sidhu

UC Davis student shares her experience volunteering with the ASUCD Pantry 

 

By DANIELA DULA MEJIA — features@theaggie.org

 

This week’s Aggie in the Area is Harleen Sidhu, a third-year human development major who has been volunteering for the Pantry for three years. This year, she is a shift lead and helps organize volunteers for their shifts.

Sidhu started working at the Pantry in her freshman year during the COVID-19 lockdown. One of her favorite memories of volunteering with the Pantry was when she worked during the first summer of the pandemic. 

“It’d be the heat of summer at 100 degrees, and we would be outside on the Quad trying to give food,” Sidhu said, “We would be wearing masks and [protective] gear, and we’d be sweating […] during the heat of COVID, but we were still trying to keep the pantry spirit alive, and like there [were] still only a few people on campus, but those people still needed help.”

Pantry volunteers helped keep an important resource open during such a crucial time. 

Sidhu said that she wanted to volunteer with a group that would be at the center of campus. The Pantry is a student-run, student-led organization with ASUCD that provides free food resources and other basic essentials to the UC Davis community. It is a fundamental part of creating food security in Davis and helping to support the growing need for basic needs assistance. 

Every year, the University of California system collects information about student needs on campus and publishes the results. In 2022, 48% of students who filled out the survey reported experiencing some form of food insecurity, and 24% of students reported experiencing “very low food security” at UC Davis.

There is an obvious need for access to food on campus, but food banks across the state are struggling to provide enough for the communities they serve. In an interview with KQED,  Regi Young, the executive director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, reported that inflation has caused the cost of providing resources to double since before the pandemic. 

Despite the rate of inflation, the Pantry is still working to provide access to food and help mitigate the effects of food insecurity. It is also a resource for everyone in the community, not just students, according to Sidhu. 

“We’re really just here for anyone who needs food,” Sidhu said. “So whether that be a student, it could be a professor or it could even be people that just live in the town.” 

The larger community also plays a vital role in ensuring that the Pantry remains stocked with products. It receives a lot of donations from the Yolo County Food Bank and local organizations. The support that volunteers like Sidhu provide is also a huge part of what keeps this resource open. Fridges and products are restocked daily with donations.

“Monday through Friday, [the Pantry] is always open,” Sidhu said. “Anyone can come walk by, and then we have an online ordering system where you can order canned goods from the back.” 

The link to the Pantry’s online ordering system can be found on their website, including any events and information about volunteering, donating and accessing more food resources on campus. The Pantry is open on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Weekends for online order pickup from 12-2 p.m.

 

Written by: Daniela Dula Mejia — features@theaggie.org 

 

Correction: In a previous version of this article, the last name of Harleen Sidhu was misspelled. The California Aggie regrets this mistake. It has been updated accordingly.