Community cupboard continues to help aid student food insecurity

Kastenny Flores, Reporter

The Community Cupboard, the campus food pantry, has made an impact on the California Lutheran University community and has been a way to bring students and staff together to help one another.

The on-campus food pantry is a resource that helps students at Cal Lutheran and is found inside the Samuelson Chapel, a location that allows all students an equal opportunity to the Cupboard. 

The Cupboard started as a small cabinet with food, though it has now expanded to an open food pantry 24 hours a day. The program also offers free meal swipes for any Cal Lutheran student who applies online.

Only students who do not have a meal plan are eligible to apply. Due to the limited pool, there is also a limit on how many swipes students can receive. The swipes are added directly onto the students’ ID cards to be used at the Ullman Commons. 

Funded entirely by donations, the Cupboard uses all the resources provided to give back to the Cal Lutheran community. For example, the food provider Sodexo, partnered with Swipe Out Hunger, has helped create a bank of free guest meals for students.

“One of the things we strive for in the community is its anonymity; we strive to be a free anonymous resource for students,” Campus Ministry Engagement Coordinator Amanda Namba said.

The Cupboard was designed to help students in need. According to Namba, there has been an increased use of this resource throughout the years. 

First-year student Tyler Haug understands the significance of the Community Cupboard, “I think food banks are nothing but positive. There is always someone who could be facing food insecurity, and you never know who that might affect.”

An article on Food Insecurity by Health Affairs states that after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the United States, 10.9% of Americans faced food insecurity. Additionally, the article mentions that “30 percent of all college students experienced food insecurity at some point in their college careers.”

The Executive Assistant of the Office of Mission & Identity Executive Assistant James Dean Esparza said, “Students need our assistance at the end of the day. I know that because if you look at our world, many people struggle to make ends meet.”

According to Esparza, the program has done an excellent job of maintaining its integrity and mission while continuing to grow. This last year, Associated Students California Lutheran University Government donated a large refrigerator to store fresh produce. 

In previous years, there has been a high volume of donations and help from Cal Lutheran staff members and students. 

“The impact, as Reverend [Scott] always says, is part of our beloved community,” Esparza said. “If you are part of the community and looking for a meal, this is the place for that. Hopefully, that is a reminder that all are accepted here.”

Esparza also explained that the program is open to all students who feel in need. Therefore, donations or payments are unnecessary to use the resources if deemed needed. 

“We are trying to protect this resource as we continue to grow. It is incredibly valuable for our students to feel comfortable using this resource. We just hope that it continues to be used in a way that is the most successful for what our campus needs,” Namba said. “We trust that our campus community respects and leaves it for someone facing food insecurity. We have a great community at California Lutheran University and trust that will happen.”

The end goal of the Community Cupboard is to help all students who are facing food insecurities. Namda wishes to remind all students, “Come as you are. Take what you need.”

Individuals who are looking to donate or start a food drive for the Community Cupboard can email Amanda Namda or the Campus Ministry for information on how to get started.