Food pantry offers relief for community

By Reggie Santini, Spotlight Editor

The Associated Student Union has helped create and open a food pantry for Contra Costa College students who can’t afford to feed themselves.

Located in SA-234 and open three times a week, Mondays and Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., the student staffed food pantry provides students with enough food to make one meal on each day of the week for up to seven days.

Students can withdraw food from the food pantry twice a week.

“We know that about one out of five students at CCC suffers from food insecurities,” Student Services and Instructional Support Coordinator Joel Nickelson-Shanks said. “With the opening of our food pantry we will be able to impact students on our campus.”

Students must come to the Student Life Office in SA-109 and log in with their student ID numbers before heading to the Food Pantry to pick up a bag of groceries.

Political science major Jose Arebalo said, “I have worked at different food pantries before and ours is very diverse. The people at the food bank know we are from a community college so they provide us with a wide variety of foods. We even have baby food in there.” 

Nickelson-Shanks said students will receive a pre-made bag and will also be able to pick between two to three more items.

Arebalo said he’s happy with how diverse the food pantry.

He said he can now tell a single mom, “‘I know you are struggling so why don’t you go to the food pantry and get some food for your baby.’”

“Some of the items students will receive are rice, beans, fruit, vegetables and tuna,” Nickelson-Shanks said.

He said despite there not being any meat options at the moment, the ASU is currently working on a way to provide hot dogs for students, but the lack of a refrigerator stands in the way.

“We want to provide students with meat options, but meat goes bad very quickly. We need food with a long shelf life,” Nickelson-Shanks said.

Students have the option of selecting organic items as well, like organic peanut butter or jelly.

Arebalo said the food pantry idea was first brought up in an ASU meeting by Nickelson-Shanks last semester.

During the meeting ASU members voted on the budget and on price points for the program.

Nickelson-Shanks said, “After we settled on the $400 a month budget we reached out to the CCC Foundation to help us partner with a food bank.”

Foundation Development Officer Sara Marcellino said the ASU reached out to the Foundation because they needed a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization to go in partnership with the Contra Costa and Solano Food Bank.

“Our mission is to support the college and its students,” Marcellino said.

With the Foundation’s partnership, the ASU was able to purchase the food at a wholesale price.

A 501 (C)(3) is a nonprofit organization that is exempt from paying federal income taxes if its activities are religious, educational, charitable, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, or preventing  cruelty to children or animals.

For years the Foundation’s main purpose was to raise money for student scholarships, but in the last year they have begun funding different projects around campus.

When purchasing food for the pantry,  Arebalo said the ASU gives money to the Foundation and the Foundation pays the Contra Costa and Solano Food Bank for the food orders they place.

Nickelson-Shanks said once everything was ready, the culinary arts department, and its Chairperson Nader Sharkes, donated food and shelves to help the ASU kick-start the food pantry project.

In support of the pantry, district Chancellor Fred Wood said he wants to place a food barrel in the lobby of the District Office in Martinez so that district employees and trustees can contribute to the food pantry.

SparkPoint Coordinator Bill Bankhead said he has noticed many schools on the San Francisco Peninsula have food pantries and is happy CCC has one available for its students.

Nickelson-Shanks said, “We don’t want to be biased, so the food pantry is open to all students.”