The Bruin Campus Cupboard opened in November last year in response to a survey indicating that 65 percent of students at Salt Lake Community College were often going hungry because of low income and other difficult circumstances.
“We pick up a delivery from [the Utah Food Bank] the third week each month,” says Justin Hughes, a volunteer and the former food pantry coordinator. “It’s sort of a set deal; we can go in and change our food order and make it bigger if we need to or [make it] less, depending on what our demand for food is.”
The food pantry is expanding to include toiletries
The food pantry will provide two full bags of groceries, now including toiletry items, each month for students in need. To get help, students need only simply to present their OneCard and fill out a basic form.
When the food pantry first opened on campus, it only carried basic food items, but the Campus Cupboard has now expanded its services to provide basic toiletries like laundry detergent and personal hygiene products.
“As of our new order that’s coming in this month, we will be having laundry detergent and toiletries,” says Hughes. “We don’t have room to really expand because our closet is so small, but yet, we are trying to pack in there as much help as we can.”
The food pantry can hold up to approximately 3,500 pounds of food, but because of student demand, shelves quickly become bare.
New hours help reach more students in need
The pantry was originally only open on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Because students usually have classes on either Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, or on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the Campus Cupboard was only able to reach a fraction of the student population.
“Up until this semester, we have been open on Tuesday and Thursday so I think we were just helping the same set of students,” says Hughes. “[When] we opened up on Mondays, I think that now we are seeing [quite a few] new clients.”
On Monday, June 23, before volunteers had restocked the shelves, pantry inventory dropped to less than 1,500 pounds.
This week, the pantry will also be open on Wednesday, July 2, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. with the hope that they will be able to reach a third of SLCC’s population –students attending classes at night.
The food pantry wants to offer healthier foods
Another goal that Hughes would like to see achieved is a range of healthier foods donated to the pantry, though they are willing to take what they can get if it will keep students from going hungry.
“We are trying to provide more healthier types of food for students to put into their diet,” says Hughes. “We have chili, an assortment of beans, we have canned pork and turkey, [but we also have] snacks, like cheese nips and cookies. [There is] a lot of shredded wheat and we have some baby food items that have been donated.”
Tips for clubs on campus who would like to host a food drive
The Campus Cupboard is always open to food drives, and tries to coordinate with clubs on campus who want to participate.
“One of the things that we try to ask from other clubs who do food drives for us is to try to communicate with us and maybe see what our needs are,” says Hughes.
Donation items from the food bank are random and often disproportionate in numbers. For example, a shipment coming in last Monday had a lot of cans of corn and beans, but only a few packages of things like pasta or other items that could be used to make home cooked meals. If students are relying on the food pantry for a large amount of food support, it could be challenging to pull together a meal using only the items available there.
If a club or group would like to host a food drive, they can contact the food pantry by emailing Rose Gomez at firstname.lastname@example.org
Opportunities for humanitarian service
“We’ve been trying to work with the culinary arts program,” says Hughes. “Maybe they can help develop recipes using the items that we [usually] have available, and then [we could] have the recipes put together on cards, but since it’s summer semester there’s just not a lot going on right now.”
In addition to being a great help for struggling students, the food pantry offers many opportunities for humanitarian service as well.
Rose Gomez, the new food pantry coordinator, volunteers at the Campus Cupboard because she loves the way that helping others makes her feel, and she wants to give back to the community.
“[Volunteering here] is something that really makes me feel passionate, like I am doing a little bit of good in the world,” says Gomez. “Maybe I’m selfish, but I really like that part.”
She originally became acquainted with the Campus Cupboard as a student in need.
“Last semester I really struggled. I utilized the food pantry because I didn’t have a job and I was just living off financial aid at the time. I was stressed out –I don’t have a car, I don’t have a way to get around, I just take the bus,” says Gomez. “But I live really close to South City Campus, so to have this available where I could take two bags of food a month and feed myself without having to worry, it was just really convenient. It just made me aware of how much this service is needed.”
There are more resources available for students in need
Gomez is a single college student without children, but she also empathizes with parents who are going back to school to make a better life for their families.
“I can only imagine how difficult it would be [as a student with a family] to be in between paychecks, and try to be a student,” says Gomez. “You’re trying to better yourself and then [to] not have food to feed your family, that would be a pretty bad place to be.”
Even though the Bruin Campus Cupboard usually only provides two bags of groceries per month to each student, if there is an emergency and a student needs more than that, they are encouraged to come back. The food pantry also has a list of other food pantries in the valley, some of which can provide weekly assistance for families.
The Bruin Campus Cupboard is located in room #2-152 of the South City Campus, and is open Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from noon to 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.