The Pop-Up Pantry, SF State’s primary food distribution program operated by Associated Students Inc., celebrated their one year anniversary of providing nearly 300 students with fresh, free groceries each week.
Every Monday in the Student Life Event Center (the Annex), students can come in and take the suggested serving of groceries offered that week. The pantry operates at a 3-to-1 ratio where students are given enough food to feed three people for one week. This ratio is equivalent to feeding 175 households which is 100 more than when the pantry first started in March 2017.
“My freshman year, I had on-campus food and that helped a lot because there were multiple varieties of food to get and easy access,” said Devanique Brown, an athlete on the women’s track and field team. “Living on your own it’s a little harder going grocery shopping. A lot of the healthier things are the most expensive.”
According to a report conducted by the CSU Chancellor’s Office in January, 41.6 percent of CSU students identify as food insecure. Of those students, 21.6 percent identify as having very low food security.
The report defines low food security as “reports of reduced quality, variety, or desirability of diet and little or no indication of reduced food intake.” Very low food insecurity is defined as “reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” On the other hand, high food security is described as “no reported indications of food-access problems or limitations.”
“I think it’s a very sensitive topic and a lot of students don’t want to admit or accept the fact that they are food insecure,” said Tatianna Ramos, the assistant to the executive director of ASI.
In response to the findings, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White released the Basic Needs Action Report last month. The report emphasizes the continued effort in order to combat student food and housing insecurity by highlighting the Basic Needs Initiative. Launched in 2016, the Basic Needs Initiative requires all 23 CSU campuses to have an operating food pantry or food distribution program, have a basic needs’ services and program coordinator and offer students CalFresh application assistance.
With the help of other student volunteers, the pantry started with only 50 students and has grown to nearly 300 students. Interim Executive Director of Associated Students Horace Montgomery explains that on average, there are 180 students that attend the Pop-Up Pantry each week.
“Originally when we started we reached out to particular programs because this was [self-reported],” said Montgomery. “We wanted to go to programs that we thought already had folks that had a need or served a similar constituency.”
The pantry is partnered with the SF Marin Food Bank to provide students with sustainable foods. Normally, the pantry offers fresh staples: fruit and vegetables, protein, snacks and at least one beverage. The Pop-Up Pantry is one of the few pantries in California that offers students fresh, organic produce.
“[The pantry] forced me to eat healthier … they always have lots of fruits and veggies,” said Axel Herrera-Ibarra, an International Relations major.
The pantry not only offers students access to free and healthy groceries, but they try and educate students on the food they are receiving. As you enter the Annex, there are posters highlighting a food’s shelf life and where it should be stored in order for it to last longer. With the help of the Health and Wellness Center, the pantry also provides students with recipes containing the foods offered that week. The pantry hopes to have the ability to make the recipes for students to try in the coming semesters.
Hidden behind the baseball field near the campus police station, the Pop-Up Pantry is not easily accessed by the majority of students. In order to get more students to attend each week, Montgomery explains that they have implemented a shuttle system that picks up students from the top of campus and drives them to the Annex.
Unlike CalFresh that requires students to fill out an application, the Pop-Up Pantry is free to all SF State students with their student ID.
“Some people have it better off and some people have it even worse than my situation but whatever they give us, some weeks it’s a lot of stuff, some weeks it’s a little, it all helps,” Brown said.
The Pop-Up Pantry is every Monday from 12:30-3 p.m. in the Student Life Event Center (The Annex). Students can apply at tinyurl.com/popupfoodpantryS17 and must have their student ID.