CSULB Food Pantry grand opening

Back: Sylvana Cicero, Dr. Jeff Klaus, Dr. Rashida Crutchfield (author food and housing study). Front: Iraida Venegas, Miriam Hernandez, Logan Vournas, Carol Menard Fulthorp.

Part of what’s considered the California State University’s most comprehensive system for addressing students’ housing and food needs — the Student Emergency Intervention Program — celebrated a landmark.

The Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Food Pantry on the Cal State Long Beach campus — Beach Pantry — had its grand opening last week. The now 12-feet by 12-feet area of the Soroptimist House is operated by the ASI and opened about eight weeks ago, ASI Vice President Logan Vournas said.

“The interfaith center had a little food pantry, but it wasn’t sustainable,” Vournas said of the old 2-feet by 2-feet area. “They mostly had a cupboard or shelf… The ASI pantry recognizes the need.”

Vournas said she’s participated in ASI for three years and helped develop the new pantry, which has been in the works since last summer. It’s now the third CSU campus to have an official food pantry.

So far, the pantry has had more than 900 visits from about 500 students, the senior studying political science, law and public policy, and minoring in communications studies said. It probably has about 2,500 items, she said, and will soon include a refrigerator. Most of the content comes from outlet stores, Food Finders and monthly food drives at various campus departments, Vournas said.

“We’re really lucky we have a relationship with the outlet stores,” she said. “They usually give us dented or expired canned food, which is good up to a year after the date.”

Three students work in the pantry, she said, which is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., Mondays through Fridays. Any student with a valid I.D. can get items from the pantry, she said.

“Just the growth we’ve seen from this opening is so wonderful,” Vournas said. “We have students who really need this.”

As far as need, CSULB assistant professor in the Social Work Department Dr. Rashida Crutchfield, was commissioned by the CSU chancellor’s office to study it. A CSU report from her last year said 21% to 24% CSU students are food insecure and 8% to 12% live in unstable housing conditions. Crutchfield said she received $150,000 each year for three years, to study the issues and how to tackle them.

The second year of her study began this fall and includes another system-wide report, including students’ food and housing. The third phase will focus on model programs, such as CSULB’s food pantry.

Crutchfield mentioned she considers CSULB’s intervention program the most comprehensive in the CSU system.

For more information on the pantry, visit www.asicsulb.org, call (562) 985-4834 or email asi-pantry@csulb.edu.

Emily Thornton can be reached at ethornton@gazettes.com.

Emily is a staff writer covering higher education and other various topics for Gazette Newspapers. She has a background in weekly and daily newspapers and a bachelor’s in communication from La Sierra University.

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