After a year of planning, the Cal State Long Beach Food Pantry is now open to all current students.
“The main goal of the pantry is to make sure that any student that is in need can be supported in such a simple way – like provided food,” said Logan Vournas, Associated Students Inc. Vice President.
The expanded ASI Beach Pantry opened on Aug. 22 and is located in University Student Union room 302.
To receive food, students must bring their student ID and fill out a form with questions about what kind of food needs they have, whether they want someone to reach out to them regarding more resources and if the student has children they support.
The pantry keeps a record of how many food items a student takes for the pantry’s inventory purposes. At the moment there is no limit on items, but the pantry is currently working on a process to control the amount of food taken.
“This is only so we can make sure we have enough food for anyone who has need, but of course the pantry is there to make sure everyone is satisfied and supported so we will support students in whatever they need,” Vournas said.
The pantry is open to all CSULB students but is aimed towards supporting CSULB students with food insecurity issues. Students are also allowed to take extra food for their families if necessary.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food insecurity is defined as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.”
A recent study led by Rashida Crutchfield, an assistant professor at CSULB’s School of Social Work, showed that one in 10 students in the Cal State University system is homeless and one in five does not have steady food access.
The first phase of the four-part study took effect in April and calculations for the study were based from 1,039 survey replies from 4,945 randomly selected students, and more than 90 interviews with students and focus groups.
The initial report findings showed that about 8 percent to 12 percent of CSU students were homeless and 21 percent to 24 percent are food insecure.
According to the study, there are about 460,000 students in the CSU system and from that population, about 46,000 experience homelessness and 105,800 do not have steady access to food.
The study also shows that students who experienced food or housing instability reported high levels of stress.
Crutchfield said homelessness can be defined as a less-traditional accommodation or “unstable housing.” This includes students who live in cars, stay in hotels or with friends — known as “couch surfing.”
Across the 23 CSU campuses, these figures average out to 2,000 homeless students per campus. In a class of 30 students, three can be experiencing a type of homelessness.
According to the report, five campuses have incorporated student needs as part of the university mission statement and 11 campuses offer on-campus programs and services for food-insecure students.
CSULB is one of the 11 campuses that offers aid through the Student Emergency Intervention Program. The program’s current services include emergency grants, short-term emergency housing, meals on ID cards, and developmental and financial aid counseling support.
In addition to the ASI Beach Pantry, the Swap Shop was recently opened at CSULB.
“Our food pantry is a place where students can have access to free food for meals and snacks,” said Vournas. “The Swap Shop is a place where students can drop off, pick up and exchange school supplies like binders, notebooks, writing utensils and other items essential to school.”
The idea of the pantry was developed by the previous ASI Vice President Miriam Hernandez.
During the start of her term, Hernandez coordinated with Dean of Students Jeff Klaus and some ASI senators, including Vournas, on the idea of creating a full food pantry on campus.
Aside from CSULB, Sacramento State University, Fresno State University, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and six other CSU campuses have on-campus food banks for students.
The original food pantry was located at the Soroptimist House and operated by the CSULB Interfaith project, comprised of only three shelves of canned goods.
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In the past year the team looked for a new location, worked on the specifics of how to fund the pantry, founded partnerships and created a sustainable model. The pantry currently offers non-perishable items such as canned soups, pasta, canned vegetables and fruits in addition to proteins like tuna and peanut butter. They also have a variety of different snack foods including granola bars, crackers and chips.
“All of the food in the ASI Beach Pantry is donated, mainly from Food Finders and a drive done on Student Divisions Day earlier this month and some from the Interfaith Center,” said Vournas, “The Beach Pantry will have drives done every month by a different facet on campus, such as the 49er Shops in September.”
Food Finders is a multi-regional food bank and food rescue program headquartered in Lakewood that became a first major donor to help develop the pantry.
According to Vournas, the end-of-year goal is to have refrigeration units so the pantry can have fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and meat.
Additional programs are set to open this semester to address food insecurity at CSULB including the installation of a CalFresh counselor on campus to assist students with the application process for state food benefits.
Another way CSULB is looking to help students with food instability issues is through the app Beach Bites that is currently in development. The app will work to alert students as to when and where there will be extra food from events or meetings on campus.
According to Vournas, selected faculty, staff and administrators will have access to post to the app that will send notifications to users to inform them where there is excess food for them to take, how much food there is and for how long the food will be out.
As recently reported by the Daily 49er, 80 percent of CSULB’s 37,430 students are low-income.
The U.S. Department of Education defines low income as someone who makes $17,820 or less a year for a single-person family unit.
Crutchfield said CSU students experiencing homelessness or food insecurity are not required to identify themselves but often go under the radar because they are reluctant to seek outside assistance and experience unstable housing conditions and unsteady food access.
Vournas has also been very vocal about her own experiences regarding food insecurity and how it goes unaddressed in the campus community.
Vournas said on the second day of working in the pantry a student told her, “We reach out for help not because we are weak; we reach out for help so we can stay strong.” Vournas said she believes this is a main goal of the pantry: “to make sure that our students are strong, and that is what I would tell any student who is hesitant about assistance.”
The ASI Beach Pantry is located in USU 302, and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Liam Brown contributed to this story.