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San Diego State University Imperial Valley is working to meet the needs of its students this holiday season through its new campus food pantry.
The food pantry, the first of its kind on the SDSU Imperial Valley campus, opened in April and has served more than 800 students.
“We know that roughly 90% of our students are considered low-income and so we know with that classification that they are in need of resources like this and we are here to help them however we can,” said food pantry coordinator Melissa Villarreal.
Villarreal and her team of volunteers work to provide students with weekly bags of groceries as well as the opportunity for them to shop for specific items they may need throughout the week.
“Right now, it is set for once a week but if students need more food I always encourage them to reach out and we help them get the extra food they need,” said Villarreal. “Most of our students come to us either on their way to a class or on their way off campus to get home or to their jobs so they prefer something fast and easy. Sometimes they want to shop and pick specific things, so we give them the option.”
The food pantry also offers food and drink snack items and students are encouraged to stop by when they need even just a snack.
“We know that students don’t learn as well or as effectively when they are hungry,” said Villarreal. “And our faculty know it too, so this resource is important for our campus as a whole to be as strong and well supported as possible.”
To assist with a potential increase in demand for the resource during the holidays, the food pantry recently hosted a food drive competition that resulted in hundreds of donated items. This allows the pantry to offer larger weekly bags with more items around Thanksgiving and the winter break.
“Our pantry will be closed during the break but we will provide additional items to students that week to help while we are off campus as if we were open,” said Villarreal.
In addition to food items, the food pantry also works in coordination with SDSU’s Economic Crisis Response Team and nutrition faculty to assess what students need and ensure students are receiving catered support and resources.
“Students can, of course, get food but we also offer hygiene products and they can schedule an appointment with me or our student assistant to get enrolled in CalFresh, or I can refer them to other programs,” said Villarreal.
The pantry is open five days a week with varying hours each day but Villarreal notes that if those hours don’t work for students they are encouraged to email the team.
“I tell students they can always email me and I can meet them at whatever time they are available with that week’s bag of food.”
To help spread the word about the food pantry, Villarreal is working with faculty, staff, and groups across the campus to encourage students to visit the pantry to familiarize themselves with the resource.
“Next week, I am bringing a class in just to see the pantry, learn where it is on campus and how to access it,” said Villarreal. “My goal is to have everyone know about it, use it when they need it and eventually be able to provide multiple bags of food a week.”
Those interested in donating to the SDSU Imperial Valley Food Pantry are encouraged to drop off canned and refrigerated food items at the pantry location on campus.
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