In order to relieve the ever-present struggle of hunger that many students face, PCC will soon be implementing a free food bank program known as Lancer Pantry for those in need.
Back in fall 2014, professor Derek Milne centralized his cultural anthropology class around food, discussing topics such as food waste, food insecurity, food culture, and so forth. A Lancer at the time, Rafaela Lisboa did research on food insecurity, and impressed Milne when it was presented at the annual Honors Transfer Council Conference (HTCC) at the University of California, Irvine, in March 2015.
From there, Lisboa and several of her peers from the class were inspired to found The Food Recovery Network club.
The club took part in several projects and events that involved giving back to the homeless, but the club board realized that there were homeless students at PCC that needed to be taken care of, too.
“It really hit hard when I started to learn that some of my own peers are homeless or can’t afford food,” Food Recovery Network board member Roseanne Rivera said. “Here we are complaining about how hard our classes are, and most of us like to snack while studying, but homeless people are more worried about their next meal. Food shouldn’t be the number one thing on their mind, it should be their classes, and the entire board knew we had to do something about that.”
The Food Network Recovery Network visited Fullerton College in September 2015, noticing that the school had a food pantry and PCC did not. The board members later put Lancer Pantry to work.
Rob Johnston, expert in catering to low-income students in college, came over to speak at PCC two months after the visit to Fullerton College. He asked immediately, “Does PCC have a food bank?”
“The timing was just right for him to ask us that,” Milne said.
Milne, along with other faculty a part of the advisory committee, explained that they were just in the process of putting together PCC’s food bank.
“It should’ve happened earlier though. Food insecurity is a universal problem among colleges and universities, and Johnston was right,” Milne said. “All colleges should have one for students.”
“It took a lot of time to ask so many people for permission just to open it,” Rivera added. “Luckily, we had amazing staff that gave us so much support putting this together. Dr. Vurdien is from Fullerton College so he had access to a food pantry at the time. It was a relief when he supported us.”
Starting in early December, Lancer Pantry will provide one-day food packs, intending to be enough food to eat for the day, one-week grocery packs, and hygiene products. Food will mostly be non-perishable foods and fruits.
A college assistant will also be hired to serve as a liaison between students and student services, while distributing products to students. At the time, student volunteers will not be accepted to help run the pantry due to confidentiality issues.
All products will be free to students since the products are funded by Student Equity, a project by the PCC Education Master Plan, aiming to bridge the gaps between student groups so everyone can all receive the same opportunities. Food will be received by several partnerships, such as Los Angeles Reigional Food Bank, and staff will also be able to donate through payroll deductions.
On Nov. 19 and 20, PCC will be hosting ‘1-Million Meals Marathon,’ a 24-hour food drive in Lot 1, where donated food will be stocking up on filling Lancer Pantry first, and surplus items will be given to other organizations such as the Pasadena Humane Society and the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank.
“This [event] is so important as it helps keep people and pets together and reduces the number of pets surrendered to shelters because of uncertain financial situations,” Dean of Health Science Dr. Barbara Freund wrote in an email to staff.
One of the biggest challenges the advisory faced while putting together the pantry was finding the right location before settling for CC211.
“We wanted the pantry to be in a private location because we don’t want to make it known of which students are in need of certain resources,” Health Coordinator Jo Buczko said. “Some don’t mind it, and some do. Overall, it’s a private issue that requires a private location.”
Another challenge was getting different licenses and permissions before opening. Lancer Pantry was issued its health permit and business license on Nov. 9, and is expected a visit from the Pasadena Health Department two weeks within Dec. 1.
As the name suggests, the pantry is exclusive to PCC students, but the advisory committee finds it important that students don’t take advantage of the pantry as a place for free food.
“The pantry isn’t for students to just come by and grab free food whenever they want,” Milne explained. “This is for people who are low on access to these types of resources.”
The committee hopes that Lancer Pantry serves as the security blanket that students who lack access to resources feel like they are missing.
“There are a lot of organizations on this campus such as EOP&S and Dreamkeepers where we find students who are homeless or can’t afford to buy food,” Buczko said. “We hope Lancer Pantry will be that one universal source for all since those organizations require certain prerequisites to be in the problem. We realize that food insecurity can happen to anyone in college.”
All students are encouraged to donate at least one item to the Million Meals Marathon on Nov. 19 and 20; cash donations are accepted.