In an effort to combat the rising issue of food insecurity at Clark, defined as a lack of reliable access to nutritious food, the Penguin Pantry opened to students on Sept. 25, the first day of Fall classes.
The pantry, run by Estancia Cota, will provide an assortment of food from cold to hot, items students can eat immediately and items to take home. There is also an area for hygiene products and school supplies. Located in the Science Building Room 101, it is slated to be open four days a week. In order to access the pantry, students need a name or student ID number.
Matt Edmonds, the Communications Manager for the Clark County Food Bank, said the need for food is great in Clark County. “Almost one in four households in our community are food insecure,” Edmonds said.
In 2016, the United States Department of Agriculture found that over 12 percent of households in the United States are food insecure. Washington is near the national average while Oregon is above.
The numbers of people in need are hard to track, but Edmonds said that in 2016 it was estimated that 103,000 people in Clark County needed support from the food bank.
Edmonds said the Penguin Pantry will be a good addition to other established food banks in Clark County and will satisfy the needs of a different demographic: college students.
Natalie Shank, head of the Penguin Pantry committee, said that Clark noticed some students were having to choose between books, rent and food. The pantry’s goal is to alleviate the pressure of having to decide between the three necessities.
Over the summer, the pantry underwent a test run in order to work out the details of operation which Shank said went successfully. The pantry reached 45 students, and gave out 712 items. She also said there have been about 3100 donations so far.
“We really are surviving on donations, both actual food donations, but then also monetary donations,” Shank said.
She said the pantry is fortunate to be in contact with Sysco, a food company that has already donated and expressed interest in being long term partners.
Felis Peralta, the outgoing head of the Penguin Pantry, said they are lucky to have support from the community regarding their open. They didn’t have to buy any food since so much has been donated.
“We needed to support our students in a way that really engages them to retain and complete here at Clark,” Peralta said.
The committee hopes the Penguin Pantry will add a level of food security to Clark that has not previously been available. However, Shank said the point of the pantry is to lend a helping hand, not to act as a complete solution to food insecurity She said she looks forward to seeing the pantry grow.