ASI Cougar Pantry provides food for students during pandemic

As of April 22, ASI Cougar Pantry resumed operations but due to health and safety measures, the food distributions will only be conducted via a drive-through. Food will be available every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the University Village Apartments (UVA) in parking lot O.

Cougar Pantry Coordinator Alondra Gutierrez and Associate Director of Government Affairs & Initiatives Ashley Fennell said that operations will officially continue until the end of the 2020 spring semester but that the likelihood of continuing in the summer remains uncertain. “[W]e will assess what the summer operations will look like and if we are able to offer any. We are typically closed for summer but we understand these are out of the ordinary circumstances.”

Gutierrez and Fennell said that their team was fortunate to have help, especially when facing the challenge of ensuring the safety of every- one. “We are beyond lucky to have both supply and financial help…A big thank you to our partners – Feeding San Diego and North County Food Bank for connecting us to food resources. We have received additional financial resources from donations! The only challenges really relate to operating during a pandemic and managing the health and safety of our staff as well as participants… to the best of our abilities,” Gutierrez and Fennell said.

However, the team at ASI Cougar Pantry are trying to tackle these challenges by ensuring the following policies during their drive-through operations.
Each student is given a premade bag filled with non-perishable goods and select fresh produce available that week. “Food distributions are now conducted in ‘drive-through’ fashion, in which the driver remains in the vehicle and food is then placed in their trunk to limit exposure…” as stated by Gutierrez and Fennell.

However, Gutierrez and Fennell also stated that they accommodate students without cars as well, “We also have kept students who may not have a car or are living in the UVA in mind. For those who do not have cars, we are requiring them to wear masks when/if they pick up food and practice social distancing while they wait in line and when picking up food.” Students with food allergies were kept in mind as well, “If there are food allergies/restrictions, we also accommodate and have ‘special bags’ premade. We encourage you to check out our website for our safety guidelines and information…”

For students and their families that want to volunteer, Gutierrez and Fennell said, “We appreciate students be- ing so open to helping, however, because of CDC protocols and our own, we are currently not taking any volunteers. Keeping the number of workers at a minimum will help minimize risk and exposure…”

As for donations, they said, “We, unfortunately, aren’t accepting donations other than the ones we pick up from North County Food Bank and Feeding San Diego. At this point in time, we don’t have the capacity to store donations and don’t want to encourage folks coming to distributions to drop off.”

Individuals who still want to help can do so financially by going online and making contributions to the ASI Cougar Pantry.

Despite these challenges, Gutierrez, and Fennell said that they also saw the best in humanity, “We trust in each other’s work and… have seen the dedication in helping CSUSM students firsthand. The continuing of the ASI Cougar Pantry distributions is a perfect example where…people ‘pull together.’ Staff from CSUSM housing, CSUSM Parking Services, CSUSM Hope, and Wellness Center, among others have all come together to support the ASI Cougar Pan- try’s Mission and we are so grateful for that.”

For financial contributions visit: giving/give-now/index.html. For more info about the pantry visit: