On-campus food pantry tries to keep up with demand

Thriiiiive Center
Students shopping for snacks. Photo by Sergio Gutierrez/ el Don

The Fainbarg-Chase Thrive Center continues to accumulate regulars, often leaving shelves and refrigerators in the portable-classroom-turned-food-pantry empty by Thursday.

Since opening in fall of 2021 student use of the food pantry has been constant despite the Omicron variant spread and student decrease during winter intersession. Staff member Amber Vasquez said participation has tripled so far this semester with about 80-90 students coming into the Thrive Center’s food pantry per day.

By providing school ID and completing two short surveys, all Santa Ana College students have access to a daily snack and one grocery bag per week. Fill a basket to the top and then assistants transfer it into a bag for you.

Many students use the Thrive center to get snacks and groceries for home. “I save a few bucks, I bring the egg and milk back home.” Said Gisella Estrada, engineering major. However, by Thursday there are mostly potatoes and drinks on the shelves.

The Thrive Center’s solution to avoid food shortages in the future is to gain more non-profit partners so they can have more resources.

“We’re always trying to work on getting more non-profit partners partnered with us,” Vasquez said. “I don’t know if you know but if you seen in the freezer we have a non-partner there too named Bracken’s Kitchen, and they are able to provide us with frozen meals.”

Student shopping for milk at the Thrice Center in March. Photo by Katherine Arroyo

The center is promoting CalFresh as a resource through application help from trained staff. They are also looking to provide monthly cooking demos. Although these demos are via Zoom, it is limited to 50 students with ingredients provided by the non-profit Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County. The nonprofit already supplies the center with food for the center’s pantry and are based in Irvine.

 The center was created with a portion of a $1.25 million private donation by the Fainbarg & Chase family during COVID 19, in an effort to increase educational performance without de-prioritizing student health and well-being. When built out to full capacity, the goal of SAC’s first comprehensive basic-needs center will be to provide students free food, clothing, shelter, and career workshops. 

Pantry hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to noon and 1- 6 p.m. Fridays they are open only from noon to 2 p.m. Office hours are Monday and Wednesday 9 a.m. to noon and Thursday 8 a.m. to noon.

Additional reporting by Sergio Gutierrez

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