Donation-based food service now open to qualifying students
The Santa Clara
January 10, 2019
It’s a room full of non-perishable foods, condiments and toiletries stocked by donations from the campus community. And for students who aren’t sure where their next meal will come from—everything in it is completely free.
The Food Pantry will open its doors on Thursday to current Santa Clara undergraduate and graduate students with low food security.
Food security is defined as the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food.
The pantry is part of the university’s Food Insecurity Program, which started as the Emergency Meal Fund in Spring 2018.
Laura Rosenberg, resident director for Graham Residence Hall, brought the program to Santa Clara after being motivated by similar programs offered at universities like Michigan State University and George Washington University.
“Other schools had programs to address food and housing insecurity—essentially basic needs security on campuses—and I just thought, ‘oh my gosh, I can’t believe that we don’t really have anything to address that,’” Rosenberg said.
Prior to the implementation of the program, students with low food security were able to reach out to and get help from the Counseling and Psychological Services or the Office of Student Life (OSL) on campus, but there was no program dedicated to helping students in the long run.
Rosenberg hopes that the program will not only provide help for students in need, but will also educate the campus community on what food insecurity is and raise awareness about how this could be a problem some members of the university campus are dealing with.
“You don’t necessarily know if one of your friends or someone you’re close to might be experiencing food insecurity,” Rosenberg said.
According to a 2016 study conducted by Students Against Hunger, 22 percent of the 4,000 college students surveyed from 26 universities across the nation aren’t sure where their next meal will come from.
In addition to the Food Pantry, the program provides qualified students with extra FLEX dining points which can be loaded onto their ACCESS card, as well as gift cards to grocery stores like Safeway and Target.
The dining points, gift cards and items in the food pantry are provided completely by donations, and students utilizing the program are not expected to provide anything in return.
“Some people thought that it was a loan,” said Allie Cionco, associate director for Student Welfare within the OSL. “There’s not an expectation that if we give you a gift card that you’re going to pay that back.”
So far, more than 20 students have benefitted from the program, including a handful of students who said they had become more food secure and therefore no longer needed the program.
One anonymous student who partook in an OSL survey said the program lifted a huge weight off their shoulders.
“At the start of my sophomore year, I came in with high hopes and excitement to begin a new year here at Santa Clara,” the student said in response to the survey. “Things quickly changed once I found out that I couldn’t afford tuition and could barely feed myself. Learning about [the Food Insecurity Program] has been extremely helpful and is leading me on a path to a better future.”
Kimberly Gilkey, assistant dean for Off-Campus Student Life, interacts with students using the program. Gilkey said food insecurity is more than just an instantaneous problem—it can have widespread, continuous effects on students.
Two students who Gilkey worked with were able to focus on their career path once the concern of whether or not they had food to eat was off their minds.
“The program allowed them to be able to have unpaid internships and be able to do things that they needed to do to graduate and get a job,” Gilkey said. “They came back and said they were thankful to be able to have some extra funding to buy food because it allowed them not to have to work a job that wasn’t necessarily related to their major.”
Students who are hoping to benefit from the program must fill out an intake form and meet with someone from the OSL.
Faculty and staff are also able to nominate students whom they believe may be food insecure.
Once they are part of the program, they will be given access to the food pantry—the exact location of which is only given to those in the program— as well as provided with extra dining points or gift cards.
Although the program provides extra support for students, staff members involved with it understand that it isn’t a long term solution.
“What we’re doing is a band-aid,” Cionco said. “So, we’re trying to help students who have more lasting needs by plugging them into the other resources that are available within our community. But certainly, if a student was in need of food, we would make sure they get it one way or another.”
One issue that the food pantry currently faces is its lack of fresh foods. However, program organizers say they are looking into partnering with the Forge Garden in the future to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to students using the pantry.
In the meantime, organizers hope non-perishable donations for the pantry will continue to flow in. Donations in the form of canned goods, gift cards or cash can be taken to the OSL located on the second floor of Benson Memorial Hall.
“If you’re going to Costco or if you’re going to Safeway and you’re able to spare a can of something, definitely do so because your donation will not go unused,” Rosenberg said. “It’ll support someone who is trying really hard to get their education just like you are.”
Contact Kimi Andrew at email@example.com or call (408) 554-4852.