Cougar Pantry finds a new home on campus

All+CSUSM+are+eligible+to+receive+food+and+groceries+from+the+Cougar+Pantry.

Photo by Angelina Parra

All CSUSM are eligible to receive food and groceries from the Cougar Pantry.

Kristin Bergmann, Staff Writer

The Cougar Pantry moved to a spacious new location on campus, located in Commons 104, adjacent to the bookstore.

The Cougar Pantry is a project led by ASI in effort to combat food insecurity on campus. Every currently enrolled CSUSM student can visit the pantry once a week and pick up groceries free of charge. The pantry offers a wide selection of dry goods, canned goods, produce, milk and toiletries.

The pantry’s design  was altered to resemble a small supermarket. Shopping carts are provided, however, students are asked to bring their own reusable bags to carry their groceries out.

Students are highly encouraged to use this free service. A 2019 evaluation of ASI food programs, funded by the Basic Needs Initiative Faculty Research Funding Award from the Chancellor’s Office, found that the Cougar Pantry greatly benefits the CSUSM community. The research team  also evaluated Fresh Market Monday, which usually offers fresh produce once a week. However, during the transitional phase into the new pantry space, ASI will not offer Fresh Market Monday. At least for the 2021 fall semester.

The evaluation was conducted by social sciences professor Dr. Jill Weigt and a team of seven students from CHABSS and CEHSS in spring and fall of 2019. Professor Weigt and her team interviewed a total of 151 students at the Cougar Pantry and got an overwhelmingly positive response. 95.9 percent agreed that the pantry is open often enough and 94 percent said that the opening hours work with their schedule. The majority also felt respected and said that using the Pantry is private, confidential and hassle free.

According to the evaluation report, the students were generally happy with the amount, the quality and the nutritional value of the food they had access to. Most people were also satisfied or very satisfied with the pantry staff. The 72 students interviewed about Fresh Market Monday gave similar responses.

Overall, the CSUSM community is highly pleased with both food programs, although the satisfaction with food amount, quality and nutrition was slightly higher for Fresh Market Monday than the Cougar Pantry. The researchers did not find any significant differences by race, gender, class, transfer status, age, housing insecurity or number of times a student uses the pantry.

Furthermore, the evaluation found that student’s emotional states greatly benefit from the food distribution programs. Students reported to be less stressed, less hungry and in a better overall mood. Some students also said that they had an easier time concentrating in class and doing homework and just under a third of the students even saw improvements in their mental health.

The overall findings of the evaluation determine that the ASI food programs serve everyone well, regardless of racial or social background and that these projects bring great physical and mental benefits to students. Although Fresh Market Monday is being discontinued this fall, the Cougar Pantry is open and ready to serve the campus community. The Pantry is open Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and for more information visit, https://www.csusm.edu/asi/pantry/index.html.

The Cougar Chronicle: The independent student news site of California State University, San Marcos