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ASI Food Pantry To Officially Open

Published: October 17, 2016

ASI Vice President Logan Vournas with ASI President Marvin Floresa at the new facility.
PHOTO BY KEVIN TRAN
ASI Vice President Logan Vournas (l) with ASI President Marvin Flores.

CSULB’s Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program is moving forward in a big way.

Brand new this fall is the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Beach Pantry, located on the second floor of the University Student Union (USU) in room 302. Though it opened on Aug. 22, the first day of fall classes, the official grand opening is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 26, at 11 a.m.

Among those expected to be at the opening are former ASI Vice President Miriam Hernandez, current ASI Vice President Logan Vournas, CSULB Vice President for Student Affairs Carmen Taylor and President Jane Close Conoley. There will be food, beverages and giveaways at the event.

The idea of creating a full food pantry was developed last spring by Hernandez, who coordinated with Dean of Students Jeff Klaus and ASI senators, including Vournas.

“This is a big necessity for everyone,” said Vournas. “If someone is here all day and can’t afford to eat then they can’t focus on classes or homework.”

Originally slated for the Soroptimist House on campus, a facility somewhat off the beaten path of student foot traffic, ASI was asked if it could find a place for the pantry in the USU, making it more convenient for students.

“They made it happen,” said Carol Menard-Fulthorp, Assistant Dean of Students in Student Affairs. “It is now being sponsored and managed by Associated Students. It’s nice to see that student leadership wanted to take ownership of the food pantry. That has always been the goal of what we wanted to have happen.”

Unofficially open for approximately two months now, many students have already benefited. As of Oct. 4, more than 400 students have taken advantage of the pantry.

“We’re trying to figure out how much were going to allow students to take,” said Iraida Venegas, ASI assistant director of services. “Right now were allowing students to take items as needed, but we want to make sure we have enough to distribute to all students who need assistance.”

The initial food drive to directly benefit the pantry came in August when ASI collaborated with the Forty-Niner Shops, which asked individuals to donate a dollar (or more) at selected points of purchase or bring items to the red bins at various locations. The College of Engineering is doing the food drive this month.

“The student leadership is looking at making this a campus-wide effort by hosting food drives at different locations every month,” said James Ahumada, ASI interim communications manager. “That way, everyone can help at some point in time and we don’t over-saturate a certain location.”

The need for such a pantry to address already apparent student food insecurity issues was made even more evident through a recent CSU system-wide study led by CSULB School of Social Work assistant professor Rashida Crutchfield. The study showed approximately one in 10 students in the CSU to be homeless and one in five not having steady food access. University officials reported in February that roughly 23 percent of students within the CSU experience food insecurity.

And, though the pantry is open to all CSULB students, efforts are aimed towards supporting students with the greatest food insecurity issues. If needed, students are also allowed to take food for their families.

A wide variety of foods are available—beans, vegetables, juices, fruit-based items, dry cereals, ramen noodles, canned soups and vegetables, pasta, fruits, tuna, peanut butter, granola bars, crackers and chips—as well as hygiene products. In the plans is a small refrigeration system that will allow for certain perishable items.

Confidentiality is also key, so anyone who gets something from the pantry will have the option to place it put in a Forty-Niner Bookstore bag.

To receive food from the pantry, students must bring their student ID and complete a short form. The pantry keeps a record of how many food items a student takes for the inventory purposes only.

Also housed in the ASI Beach Pantry will be the Student Swap Shop program, sponsored by Sustain U, which is aimed at providing students with the opportunity to swap unneeded or old school supplies, like books, notebooks and other items essential to education. Also at the location will be information about campus services and programs such as housing and university police.

Currently, hours for the food pantry and swap shop will be Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 to 7 p.m.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the food pantry can call 562/985-5264, e-mail to asi-pantry@csulb.edu or drop off donations at the following on-campus locations—ASI Beach Pantry Office, USU-302; USU Information and Ticket Center, USU 2nd floor; and ASI Recycling Center, 5800 E. Atherton St.

In addition, financial contributions can be made through the ASI website’s paypal link, where individuals can donate money that will be used to directly support the Beach Pantry.

“The students are really excited about this,” said Venegas, “and it’s helping out a lot of them.”

Under the Division of Student Affairs, the CSULB Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program is a comprehensive initiative that identifies and immediately serves some of the campus’ most at-risk students which includes displaced students, food insecure students and students experiencing an emergency situation or crisis. The program’s services include emergency grants, short-term emergency housing, meals on ID cards, and developmental and financial aid counseling support.