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Pantry service spotlights a growing campus need for food security

By Gretchen Kell

Regular deliveries of food, including free unlimited fresh produce, began arriving at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry this semester as the result of the popular pantry’s new partnership with the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

In its new location at the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union, the pantry is seeing about three times as many visitors as it did a year ago. In November, for example, 750 people visited the pantry, and on Dec. 2, before the start of Reading, Review and Recitation Week and the week of final exams, an all-time high of 200 students used the pantry in just one day.

“We were proud to volunteer and thankful for the opportunity to represent
the parent community.”

– Beth and David Marks

“Our pantry has had a relationship with the food bank since last summer, when we starting picking up fresh produce there,” explains Ruben Canedo, chair of the campus’s Basic Needs Security Committee. “But since our move from Stiles Hall this past October, our user count has tripled, and we needed to reach out to the food bank for a whole different conversation. We became the first university that it’s worked with.”

Becoming a full-fledged member of the food bank, which provides food for about 240 nonprofit agencies in Alameda County, was “a great step in the right direction,” says Clarissa Broughton, the food bank’s direct distribution coordinator. Berkeley student parents in need at University Village also will be helped by the new arrangement.

“It used to be that students had difficulty affording tuition and textbooks,” she says, “but today, it’s about the cost of housing. Our hunger studies show that students will pay for housing, utilities and other essential bills, but then start cutting out medication and food, which are the only things they can manipulate” to make ends meet.

The Cal Parents connection to the food pantry is strengthening. In December, 28 parents volunteered there during the final two weeks of the fall semester.

Beth and David Marks were among this cohort — and realized how strong the need for food security is for some students.

“The quality of the food and supplies in the pantry was impressive,” says Beth, whose son, McClain, is a freshman and a Cal rugby player. “We could see firsthand from the number of appreciative students that the pantry provides a valuable service on campus. We were proud to volunteer and thankful for the opportunity to represent the parent community.”

To learn more about the UC Berkeley Food Pantry or to contribute, visit pantry.berkeley.edu.

Cal Parents Beth and David Marks in the new Food Pantry

The Facts About Food Insecurity at UC Berkeley

  • Since 2010, one in five Berkeley students reported having to “skip meals to save money” in an undergraduate survey.
  • In 2013, the Financial Aid & Scholarships Office launched the Food Assistance Program to assist food-insecure students who have maximized their financial aid package. To date, more than 200 students have benefitted.
  • In 2014, the campus launched the pantry to provide emergency supplemental nutrition support to any undergraduate or graduate student in need. To date, the food pantry has provided support for more than 2,500 student visits.

Source: UC Berkeley Food Pantry