For Associated Students, Inc. Vice President Logan Vournas, spearheading the launch of ASI Beach Pantry, the official food pantry for CSULB students, was a deeply personal undertaking.
“I got involved because it was a struggle that was important to me. It personally affected me and my friends and people I care about,” said Vournas, who worked with ASI and university administrators to develop the plans for the pantry.
Since the Beach Pantry opened its doors Aug. 29, more than 80 students have received food.
“That’s only in three and a half weeks,” Vournas said.
About 21 percent of students on CSU campuses experience food insecurity while in college, according to a study commissioned by CSU Chancellor Timothy White and led by Social Work Professor Rashida Crutchfield. The study calls it an “invisible” issue that has been normalized as a picture of the “ordinary and expected starving student.”
The Beach Pantry is part of a suite of services offered by the Student Emergency Intervention and Wellness Program. It is the most comprehensive program of its kind in the nation, providing meals, temporary emergency housing, emergency funds and counseling for students to continue with their academic studies and persist to graduation.
The first version of CSULB’s food pantry was opened in 2015 at the campus’s interfaith center, and was later moved to the Soroptimist House. ASI took on ownership of the food pantry in the summer and began working on proposals to provide a new space.
“We thought it would be central to students [for the pantry] to be in the University Student Union, in the heart of campus, to be convenient and accessible,” said Sylvana Cicero, interim ASI associate executive director.
The Beach Pantry is located in USU-302 and is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Any enrolled student can utilize the pantry by showing his or her student ID card.
Only non-perishable goods are currently available at the pantry, but ASI will continually monitor and review student needs and see if there is an opportunity to have refrigerators for perishable items, Cicero said.
To sustain the Beach Pantry, Vournas is coordinating with departments on campus to put on monthly food drives. The outpouring of support from campus has been tremendous, with various departments, clubs and faculty members reaching out to see how they can pitch in.
“It’s really been a whole campus effort in supporting the food pantry,” said Vournas. “That’s the best thing about it.”
This month, the 49er Shops has partnered with ASI to raise money for goods. Each of the various 49er Shop vendors are asking patrons to round up to or add a dollar to their purchase amounts to go toward the pantry.
Cicero said in just two weeks, the 49er Shops has received more than $2,000.
“It’s been an amazing supportive community here on campus,” Cicero said.
To donate non-perishable food items and canned goods, red and blue donation bins are located around campus. Goods can also be dropped off at the ASI Beach Pantry Office (USU-302), USU Information & Ticket Center (USU 2nd Floor) and the ASI Recycling Center (5800 E. Atherton St.)
To contact the Beach Pantry, call 562.985.5264.