Lancer Pantry stocks shelves to squash food insecurity

Michael Watkins/ Courier Food fills the shelves at the Lancer Pantry located in CC 211 on the Pasadena City College Campus.

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The shelves abundant with canned and boxed food along with the colorful, fresh fruit table can make any student who walks into CC-211 feel like they’re grocery shopping on campus. The difference between this room and other grocery stores is that the grand total will always be $0.00. Welcome to the PCC’s Lancer Pantry.

Lancer Pantry offers selected processed foods, water bottles, and toiletries; all available at no charge with a student ID. Inspired by a student’s research project on food insecurity, professor Derek Milne and several of his students teamed up to create this on-campus food bank. Making its debut back in winter intersession, the Lancer Pantry was at its busiest when it served up to 50 students in one day.

The rate of students skipping meals due to financial difficulties is alarming for all colleges and universities nationwide. For example, a survey conducted by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab concluded that one in five college students have gone hungry, homeless, or both, even when they qualified for financial aid. Similarly, a study by the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) found that 48 percent of their surveyed college students were experiencing food insecurity, even though most had a paying job and were provided financial aid.

PCC isn’t the first nor the only institution who recognizes students’ struggling lifestyle and set up a pantry. The Sacramento Bee reported that there are eight CSU’s and nine UC’s joining this national movement to help secure students’ food resources.

Michael Watkins/ Courier
Food fills the shelves at the Lancer Pantry located in CC 211 on the Pasadena City College Campus.

“Students who enrolled here have to spend around $10 for a meal, three meals per day, and if they are enrolled full-time, that could cost them around $300 a month just for food. Most of the community college students don’t have that kind of budget or earn that much to spend on food,” college assistant Lisa Nelson explained.

Lancer Pantry’s food and supplies are primarily based on community support, donations and previous food drives. Among the plentiful items they have available now, Lancer Pantry’s workers and advisers hope to provide more quantity and quality on their food selection.

“We are trying to reach out to more community members to keep a regular flow for the donation, so we can provide consistency on a week-to-week basis for the students who are in need,” Nelson said.

“It would be nice [for us] to be able to provide more refrigerable items for students, like yogurt and milk,” student employee Nick Tobin added. “However, due to regulation complications, Lancer Pantry won’t be able to give out anything unprocessed, such as raw meat.”

While the Lancer Pantry focuses on providing sources for those in need, Tobin explained that another priority of the workers and faculty is to keep the students’ identity confidential.

“Most students are hesitant to ask for help or to admit that they need help, especially with food, and they think that somebody else needs the resource more,” Tobin explained.

The Lancer Pantry’s snug location on the second floor of the CC-building may be protecting students’ privacy, however, it also made the Lancer Pantry hard to find. The Lancer Pantry team has been endlessly promoting this service through social media and spreading the word on campus to staff and organizations.

“The [Lancer] Pantry is a very helpful program, but It’s unfortunate that the program is kind of under-radar and not promoted well … because there are a lot of PCC students struggling with food, just as that many struggling with homelessness,” ICC secretary Laurencia Pandelaki said.

“We are hoping a lot more students will come and utilize [Lancer] Pantry,” associate dean of special services Dr. Ketmani Kouanchao added. “Food insecurity has become phenomenal; it’s not just one or two but more and more students have come to class hungry.”

Lancer Pantry operates from Monday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with a two hour break after 12 p.m., allowing students to visit up to two times per week, and select up to eight items per visit. Donations are greatly appreciated. For any questions or concerns about Lancer Pantry, contact lancerpantry@pasadena.edu or call (626)-585-7254.

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