Let’s talk about food.
Food insecurity has become a hidden crisis among many college campuses, according to the Washington Post in April 2018. Here at American River College, a committee of students, staff and faculty are working hard to provide for these basic hunger needs to students through the Beaver Food Pantry.
According to Brett Sawyer, Student Life Supervisor at ARC, the Beaver Food Pantry was a student-driven idea.
“The idea derived from the Student Senate and they passed a resolution in 2016,” Sawyer said. “The Hunger Resource Committee was very passionate about this idea. They met with the Student Senate and said ‘Let’s do it.’”
The Hunger Resource Committee, made up of ARC staff and faculty, opened the pantry with a desire to give students easy access to free, fresh food; a small step to making a difference for any students on campus quietly dealing with the burden of hunger and food insecurity.
The United States Department of Agriculture defines food insecurity as a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active and healthy life. Suffering from food insecurity doesn’t necessarily mean one is suffering from hunger. Food insecurity specifically refers to a lack of financial resources to provide enough food for the amount of individuals in their household.
According to the health and hunger organization Feeding America, most of the time, food insecurity stems from a multitude of overlapping issues such as affordable housing, social isolation, health problems, medical costs and low wages. Food insecurity especially affects college students, since a college student may be balancing both school and work, all while trying to remain financially stable to provide themselves basic needs.
Jessica Beaver, a small business major at ARC, said she has had her fair share of struggles. Beaver said she applauds the pantry for how accepting and positive the atmosphere is every time she goes.
“It’s very open. I don’t feel any discrimination when I walk up,” Beaver said. “I didn’t feel less than. We were all in the same boat.”
Beaver is a mother to a 7-year-old daughter and says the Beaver Food Pantry has been very beneficial to her whole household. According to her daughter, English muffins from the pantry have been a household favorite.
Beaver said the volunteers are always nice and caring, and even gave her recipes. She also said it’s very easy to sign up, and the food is always fresh.
According to Sawyer, a new customer must fill out an intake form from the Sacramento Food Bank, for their records, including basic household information. The Sacramento Food Bank is the Beaver Food Pantry’s main partner and distributor. After the one-time sign up, students may receive food at any time the pantry is open after presenting their student identification number.
Beaver said her greatest appreciation of the pantry is their acknowledgement of the student struggle when it comes to food insecurity. The pantry acknowledges students in ways that other pantries or food banks are failing to do.
“I’m going to work, and I’m going to school. There’s a food pantry at my school. It’s all so convenient,” Beaver said.
Convenience for students is a main concern among the Hunger Resource Committee. According to Sawyer, the committee is working towards providing a permanent location, open three days a week. This will make it easier to receive food donations, it will give them room to store food on campus and will make it more convenient for students to receive food more frequently.
According to Sawyer, the pantry is serving roughly 250 to 450 students in one day. Many of these students are regular customers from households of all sizes.
“There’s no shame in coming to the food pantry,” Sawyer said. “If a student is nervous or insecure about coming, talk to a counselor, staff member or faculty member about getting help. They’re definitely not alone.”
Sawyer said the Beaver Food Pantry is a volunteer effort, which includes students, Universal Engaging Inclusive Transformative Education (UNITE) interns and staff and faculty members.
Arlene Clarke, a faculty member in the English Department, has volunteered for the pantry since last semester. She said volunteering is a fun task and the volunteers try their best to create a positive atmosphere for students who come through.
She also said it’s important for faculty to get involved because it shows they really do care about the issue and want students to be provided for in regards to food.
“The starving college student has become kind of a mythical character. All of us have been there at some point though,” Clarke said. “Sometimes we need help from our friends. There’s no reason not to come by.”
The Beaver Food Pantry is open twice a month. Dates include Feb. 27, Mar. 13 and 27 and Apr. 10 and 24. Students are encouraged to bring their own bags.