Food insecurity initiative aids CSUSM students

Citlally Arroyo and Stephany Mejia

An Associated Students Inc. (ASI) initiative called Fresh Market Mondays provides free fruits and vegetables to CSUSM students to decrease food insecurity.
The ASI Cougar Pantry, composed of staff, interns and volunteers organizes the Fresh Market Mondays which take place every Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Chavez Plaza.

On Oct. 1, Fresh Market Monday gave free produce to 202 students. Carrots, tomatoes, apples and plums were distributed that day. Students are required to sign in with their student I.D. before they are able to receive any produce and are recommended to bring their own reusable bags, but plastic bags were offered.

The produce for Fresh Market Monday is delivered every Monday morning from Feeding San Diego. Cougar

Pantry Specialist, McKenna Elo said, “[The produce] changes every week depending on what the food bank has. We usually have about four to five different kinds of produce every week.”
Produce beginning to grow old is donated to the student centers or is sent to the com-post bins located at the garden near the University Police Department.

Food distribution on campus started in 2017 and the official Cougar Pantry space  opened in the spring 2018, which is when Fresh Market Mondays started. “The Cougar Pantry came out of ASI’s Bite Out Hunger initiative…that was a big food drive on campus, and then that eventually turned into the Cougar Pantry. Then, we started doing Fresh Market Mondays instead of the food distributions when we got the space [for the pantry],” said Elo. Before the Cougar Pantry had a space on campus, Bite Out Hunger food distributions included fruits and vegetables and non-perishable items such as canned and boxed food items. However,Fresh Market Mondays are dedicated to distribute only fruits and vegetables. Other food items including canned goods, pasta, bread, milk and eggs are available in the Cougar Pantry.
ASI purchases food from the San Diego Food Bank for the pantry. Student fees are used to purchase the food which is purchased in bulk.

“We highly encourage any-body who is a CSUSM student to go and use the pantry, because initially they do pay a [$75] fee so that does cover the pantry itself. I tell people,‘even if you still live at home with your parents, it helps them out, helps your siblings out,’” said Alejandro Ramos,
Cougar Pantry Specialist.

The ASI Cougar Pantry is also working on educating students about CalFresh and provides assistance with the online application for this program.
“CalFresh, known as foodstamps, is a nutritional pro-gram funded by the government which gives a house-hold a certain amount of money on an EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card for that person to spend on food purchases. It depends on the income of the individual and from that income it’s deter-mined how much [the individual] will be receiving on that card,” said Ramos. ASI Executive Vice President and Fresh Market Monday volunteer, Kenny Tran, said that people who can apply for Pell Grants are eligible for CalFresh. Tran said one of ASI goals is to focus on the well-being of students.

“We are also trying budgeting workshops this year and nutritional events to help students once they get this food how are they going to cook it and how are they going to use it…how is it going to benefit them in the long run,”said Tran.Students may contact the ASI Cougar Pantry for more information at [email protected]. The

Cougar Pantry is located in USU 3100A. The pantry is open for walk-ins Tuesday to Thursday. from 9 a.m. to 1p.m., 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.Students can also make an appointment with the pantry.