The food pantry is back

Grocery bags offer fresh food and supplies to students

This+image+was+made+by+Tahiti+Salinas+through+Canva+using+Sketchify+elements+and+Canva+images.

This image was made by Tahiti Salinas through Canva using Sketchify elements and Canva images.

Mia Alva, Intern Reporter

Over 300 students and their families who have faced job loss, homelessness and hunger due to COVID-19 are finding relief as the Cal State LA food pantry makes an impactful comeback this semester by providing students with bi-weekly food distributions.

Frangelo Ayran, the main coordinator of the food pantry’s bi-weekly service and assistant dean of students of wellness and engagement, explained how the partnership of the food pantry and the University Auxiliary Services (UAS) and Dining Services has helped create “an important food resource especially during this pandemic and time of virtual instruction.”

So far, the food pantry “has served more than 300 students from the two service weeks it has done, explained Ayran.

Amanda Tapia, the event sales and catering coordinator for the uas dining services, said that this new service “started with a thought of how [the food pantry] could safely provide food services to the student body during a pandemic.”

Ayran explained how successful the sign-up process has been for this new service since it “modeled [its] sign-up and pickup processes after the success of the laptop and hotspot distribution program.”

Ayran noted that the number of students who sign-up increases each time: “We are pretty confident in the social media outreach, online sign-up, and checkout options we currently have.”

Tapia said “students are full of suggestions and good information” to better improve this new service.

Pre-nursing major Summer Szeto described how the food pantry has provided a lot more now with this bi-weekly service than it usually does.

Szeto noted an increase in more fresh foods such as “eggs, vegetables, and lunch meat,” whereas last year, they were just providing more dry foods like “pasta, beans, and canned foods.”

When asked why students are getting more than they did last year, Ayran explained how the partnership with UAS and Dining Services “has given [the food pantry] the opportunity to provide students with not only more food but more fresh food.”

Ayran added this has only changed because of the license that the food pantry holds, “only for non-perishable items” compared to the UAS dining service license, allowing for fresh items.

With this new partnership, the food pantry can now give students more specialized food packages for their dietary needs. When students are signing up, they can choose from a plant-based or meat-based option.

Ayran added that “each bag is filled with a variety of essentials from all of the major food groups, selected by the UAS catering and Dining Services experts.” Dietary restrictions and allergies can also be noted through the sign-up process.

“Bags are intended to provide multiple meals from the various food groups,” added Ayran.

Szeto emphasized the impact the food pantry could make on the community if they could continue the partnership with UAS and Dining Services when going back to in-person learning. This could help students in providing more specialized and fresh options rather than solely non-perishables.

According to Ayran, the food pantry is looking to offer the same program in the spring.

Tapia saw the “need for the food pantry program to continue once it had to close,” and she is happy that the UAS could collaborate with the food pantry to keep the service going during the pandemic.

She said she knew there was a need because the food pantry has been “maxing out on grocery bags” during the last two weeks.

Ayran even thinks that the food pantry could have this new service weekly, based on their “current progress and current grant programs.”

This resource is limited to the first 200 students who sign up. After the limit is reached, students who sign up will be added to a waitlist and are notified if there is an available slot for them.

You can sign-up for these upcoming distribution dates for Dec. 7 through 10.

The food pantry asks all students who come pick up food to wear a face mask and maintain social distance. The service is continuously seeking community support and encourages anyone who can to donate to Cal State LA’s Food and Housing Security initiatives.