ASI Food Pantry draws strong support from campus and community

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reedom Allison suffered a major illness last year that left her unemployed when she transferred to Sac State. Resources were limited. Debts, rent and utilities had to be paid.

“There was no money for food and I was hungry,” says the economics major. 

Now, students like Allison have a place to turn. According to a 2015 study by the California State University system, Sac State is one of 11 CSU campuses with programs for students who are “food insecure” meaning their access to adequate food is limited by a lack of money or other resources. 

Wrapping up its second semester, the ASI Food Pantry provides food and basic necessities, ensuring that concerns about where their next meal will come from won’t affect their studies.

Pop Up Pantry

“You can’t pay attention in class on an empty stomach,” Allison says. “The food pantry is a sustainable resource for students to avoid dropping out of school.”

Reuben Greenwald, associate director of student engagement and outreach for Associated Students, Inc. says the pantry served more than 600 students in its first semester, averaging 50 student visits per day.

“We don’t have a large budget, so it’s up to the campus and surrounding community to support the program and our students,” Greenwald says. “We’re driven by donations and each one helps students succeed academically.”

"We have to empathize with their situation. The food pantry is a marvelous idea and I would support it for years."

The efforts got a boost when Sac State President Robert S. Nelsen made the food pantry a priority for funds from his President’s Circle giving society. Perla Ramos-Fat ’93 (Government), a member of the President’s Circle, says it was an easy decision to get behind the program.

“It’s heartbreaking to think that in our backyard, kids are hungry,” she says. “We have to empathize with their situation. The food pantry is a marvelous idea and I would support it for years.”

Davin Brown, director of student engagement and outreach for Associated Students, says the pantry has been supported by more than 20 campus and community food drives during the fall. And more than 60 volunteers help stock shelves, manage expiration dates and assist with inventory on a regular basis. 

“People want our students to be successful and to not struggle with feeding themselves,” Brown says.

Sac State is not alone in serving hungry college students. The CSU study found that 24 percent of students are food insecure. Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report estimated that one in 10 of its 46.5 million clients is a student. Nearly one-third of those surveyed—31 percent—indicated that they’ve had to choose between paying for food and education. 

While the University has been successful in providing canned goods and other staples to students, organizers felt something was missing in America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital. To increase students’ access to fresh fruit and vegetables, ASI partnered with Central Downtown Food Basket to launch the Pop-Up Pantry, a once-a-month distribution site for produce. 

Moving ahead, Greenwald hopes that students will donate back to the program after they graduate. 

There is already one student who will pay it forward. 

“I’ve never been on a more helpful and kind campus,” says Allison, Class of 2017. “I’m becoming attached to the University and want to be an active alumna and give back to Sac State.

My experience here and the way the pantry influences lives is worth the investment.”

You, too, can support students in need. For information on how to join the President’s Circle, visit Tess Dyer at (916) 278-5184 or tdyer@csus.edu.

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