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By Jessica Manzo, South Kern Sol
With winter break just weeks away, the food pantry at Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield are preparing to close for winter break, but that doesn’t mean student hunger takes a break.
Recently, both CSUB and BC have seen a bigger need at the schools’ food pantry. In just its second year since opening, CSUB’s food pantry has seen a increase from about 100 students visiting the pantry per week last year to 350 student per week this year. And about 250 students visit BC’s food pantry on a busy week.
“It is sad to turn students away when (the pantry) is closed because it is needed so much,” said Nallely Sanchez, a BC food pantry coordinator.
Both BC and CSUB food pantries have discussed the possibility of leaving the pantries open during winter break, but the schools have yet to come up with a solid plan to remain open during the time off.
“The university knows there is a strong need (to remain open during winter break),” said Keith Alvidrez, CSUB’s food pantry graduate student leader.
The need for food goes beyond school hours and beyond the student body, Sanchez said.
“This program helps students get through the day and helps their families by providing snacks for their kids,” said Sanchez.
David Guinto, another BC pantry coordinator, and Sanchez say there is a very big need when it comes to student hunger. They have met students who struggle not only to pay for tuition but also need to pay for housing and additional school supplies.
“People come on low budgets,” said CSUB senior Katrina Stokes, who takes advantage of the food pantry. “The pantry is a good way to get access to food and necessities.”
Students not only in Kern but across the state struggle to pay for food. More than one in five students attending a University of California institution say their financial situation has often forced them to skip meals throughout the past year, reports Laist.com.
BC student Gilbert Nonez visits the school’s food pantry at least three times a week, he said, and this time of year is when he needs it most.
“It is resourceful,” he said of the pantry. “(It) helps personally to lift my mood. I just failed a final, so being able to grab a free snack uplifted my spirits a bit.”
Finals week is one of the busiest times for the food pantries.
During finals week, the BC food pantry hands out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for students in need of a quick source of brain power before taking a test. The sandwiches are popular across campus, the coordinators said.
“(Bakersfield College) established the Renegade Pantry to alleviate food insecurity, hunger and poverty among our students, which in turn makes them more prepared to commit to their education,” said BC president Sonya Christian in her blog,
BC’s food pantry does not only collect food, but it also collects gently used and new clothing items, hygiene items and school supplies.
Those involved at the pantries have learned so much more than collecting and donating food.
Alvidrez said, “Giving, community, and helping each other out is the main goal at CSUB’s Food Pantry.”