As Long Beach State students filtered in and out of the Associated Students Inc. Beach Pantry, canned peaches and boxes of macaroni and cheese in hand, they may not think too much about the assistant checking their items out behind the desk.
“I know that some students feel weird about going to the pantry, so our staff tries to make it welcoming and we don’t ask for any personal information,” said Jasson Escobar, fourth-year electrical engineering major and fellow assistant.
Another assistant, fourth-year mechanical engineering major Daisy Santiago, restocks new donations throughout the day so that every student gets an equal chance at the new item.
“I can’t control what donations come in, but if I notice we have extra snacks, I try to tell all the students, ‘Hey check out our snack section, we got new stuff,’” Santiago said.
It is not hard for the assistants to relate to some of the students using the pantry. At one point in their lives, they have all experienced some form of food insecurity.
“There were times where I had to budget to be able to have food for the rest of the week,” said assistant and fifth-year animation major Nathalie Juarez.
Santiago began her journey working at food pantries at MiraCosta’s food pantry. Her basketball coach encouraged her team to not only use the resource when practices ran the entire day but to volunteer there.
During this time, Santiago learned that a teammate of hers experienced food insecurity and would occasionally ask to take home leftovers at team meals for breakfast or lunch.
Santiago experienced it herself when she first started at CSULB.
“My first couple weeks at Long Beach, I was definitely in that position where I didn’t have enough money because I had just paid rent,” Santiago said. “It was hard.”
Escobar experienced food insecurity when he started living on his own last year. Now, the three are in positions to help students experiencing the same difficulties.
“Knowing that there [are] students that are in need, it’s definitely difficult,” Daisy said.
The Beach Pantry opened in 2016 when former ASI Vice President Miriam Hernandez recognized that there was a growing number of students at CSULB experiencing food insecurity, including herself.
When they are not at work, or being called in on a weekend to help with donations, Juarez, Santiago and Escobar are busy with their own lives. While Santiago commutes to San Marcos on weekends as an assistant coach for her nephew’s basketball team, Juarez commutes from her home in East Los Angeles with dreams of working for Pixar and pursuing graduate school.
For now, they are steady faces at the Beach Pantry, chatting with regulars and unboxing donations from community members.
“Knowing college students like myself, it can be rough out there to get food,” Juarez said. “I want to continue to donate when I’m able to afford to do that.”