Just In Time Mobile Food Pantry puts a dent in local food insecurityby Jan Janes on Dec 7, 2018
Expanding campus services, Gavilan College recently launched Just In Time Mobile Food Pantry. Once a month, everyone in the district, not just enrolled students, can visit the Gilroy campus to pick up free food donated by Second Harvest Food Bank.
Student and Peer Mentor Marisella Olmos helps a community member gather food
donations at the Gavilan College Just In Time Food Pantry.
For many people on the Central Coast, especially students, money doesn't stretch across the month. Rent comes first, a big chunk of overall income. Food often doesn't last through the month, and students report skipping meals, reducing portion sizes or buying cheaper and less nutritional foods.
With the Mobile Food Pantry, students and district residents can pick up more than 100 pounds of free food, including poultry, milk, cheese and eggs, along with non-perishable items. They can also select from fresh fruits and vegetables, including stone fruit, melons, potatoes, onions and seasonal produce.
New monthly food program adds to Gavilan College Pantry services
Beginning in spring 2016, Gavilan partnered with St. Joseph's Family Center to offer free, non-perishable food to students made available through Second Harvest Food Bank. Periodically surveying the students, the college tailored the donated food items to students' needs. The initial inventory included fruit juice, canned fruit and vegetables, soups, pasta, dried beans and other staples. Over time the inventory has added student friendly snack items such as peanuts, granola bars, single serving soups and fruit strips.
Gavilan College now contracts directly with Second Harvest Food Bank, and the Gavilan Pantry distributes more than 1,000 pounds of food weekly to students.
Luz Ayala, Partnership Manager with Second Harvest Food Bank, talks with
Dr. Kathleen Rose,Superintendent/President of Gavilan College and Annette
Gutierrez, Supervisor of the CalWORKs and Fresh Success programs.
"I know our students still depend on having items they can take home," said Annette Gutierrez, supervisor of the CalWORKs and Fresh Success program at Gavilan. The pantry inventory also includes bread, hearty vegetables and stone fruits not requiring refrigeration. Hygiene items are also available, such as toothbrushes, feminine products, deodorant, soap and shampoo.
"We are packed to the gills," she said. "Food is more crucial to our students and their success." When the pantry can move to larger space, currently a footprint of 200 square feet, staff can evaluate expanding the items it offers. The budget for the pantry increased nearly four-fold in its second year, funding a student worker focusing on outreach and purchasing food items not available through Second Harvest Food Bank.
"Our student workers are trained in a variety of resources," Gutierrez said. "The pantry is a fun and cool place to see friendly faces and grab a bite to eat on their way to class, work or home." Students using the pantry are referred to on- and off-campus support, homeless shelters, other food distributions, financial aid, CalWORKs, Fresh Success, EOPS and tutoring.
Cariona Cisneros, Director of EOP&S, distributes healthy food during the monthly
Mobile Food Pantry drive.
On the third Thursday of each month, a time when household food supply runs low, the Mobile Food Pantry offers 125-150 pounds of food per family to replenish their supply. Trucks roll onto campus early in the morning and unload pallets of food. Under a row of canopies lined with tables, volunteers from the Gavilan community check people in and help deliver the food.
""This event is a huge undertaking," said Gutierrez. She estimated 15-20 hours a month planning, coordination and implementation, with 30-40 volunteers each month. "I am forever grateful at the opportunity to serve our community in this way."
Mobile Food Pantry team showcases their enthusiasm and the food available.
December's Mobile Food Pantry event is slated for Thursday, December 20 from 12:30-2:30 p.m. in Parking Lot H, adjacent to the athletic fields. Gavilan staff interested in volunteering can contact Annette Gutierrez.