With Thanksgiving and finals right around the corner, Salt Lake Community College’s Bruin Pantry program can be an aid for those struggling with food insecurity.
Located at the Taylorsville Redwood, South City, Jordan, and West Valley Center campuses, the pantries offer easy access to food support services. But the pantries also experience food shortages, especially during this time of year.
AmeriCorps VISTA pantry volunteers Gabriella Battaglia and Michael Braak work full-time to keep SLCC’s pantries open and the shelves full.
“Our frontline staff members are students that are studying or earning a tuition waiver who actually work in the pantries on a regular basis. They’re the ones that staff the front, they do the stocking,” Battaglia says. “We oversee everything, build partnerships, implement new policies and programming, and help support our staff.”
Battaglia says several SLCC student groups and clubs coordinate food donation drives for the pantries around the Thanksgiving holiday.
“Mike and I have been coordinating with all of the different types of groups and working out logistics of the drives to make sure that the food or hygiene items are being transported to the pantries, and making sure when that’s happening that we log those donations and put them away and organize them,” Battaglia says.
To raise awareness for in-demand items, Battaglia asks anyone who wants to organize a drive to contact an AmeriCorps VISTA representative.
“There is a consistent food shortage in Utah,” Battaglia says. “It’s not necessarily that there is not enough food as opposed to it’s not being distributed in equitable ways to the people that need it.”
The Utah Legislature recently released a draft proposal for tax reform that would increase sales tax on groceries. Two-thirds of Utahns oppose this sales tax and can sign a petition to enforce tax relief for low-income families.
The tax increase has the potential to negatively affect local Utah food banks as well as SLCC’s pantries.
A national survey taken in April by the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice shows that 45% of community and university students were food insecure within the 30 days of taking the survey.
“According to survey data, students have recently experienced a time where they weren’t sure where their next meal was going to come from, or they weren’t sure if they were going to have enough to eat,” Battaglia says.