Fighting Food Insecurity

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The Pitchfork Pantry keeps students’ hunger at bay

Octavio Serrano     College Times

Sophomore Roxanna Lopez experienced how difficult it can be to survive solely on ASU’s meal plan.

With only eight meals a week her freshman year, she had to ration them, or she would be forced to visit her mother in Avondale. She took advantage of the Tempe Pitchfork Pantry, where students can receive free food items.

The economics major now works as the pantry director, helping students who are experiencing food insecurity. Located in the Sonoran Center, the pantry is available Monday to Thursday to anyone with an ASU ID.

“We aim to end food insecurity for college students,” Lopez says. “We’re a short-term solution but we want students to be able to come here if they need food.”

A Westview High School graduate, Lopez says Pitchfork Pantry is donation based, but it recently partnered with Matthew’s Food Bank to receive a healthy stream of food.

The pantry only carries nonperishable items. Each student can take five items with them: a vegetable, a fruit, a protein and two items of choice. Although there isn’t a limit of visits per week set in stone, Lopez says they will put students who are repeatedly grabbing items in touch with resources that may provide them a long-term solution.

Lopez says the pantry sees roughly 30 to 40 students a month.

Many students go for the ramen, Lopez says, as it is a quick and easy meal. To help the students be more knowledgeable of the food items, the pantry holds cooking-on-a-budget demos.

As Lopez sits in her chair, a man walks in with a bag of canned items. A donation.

“A lot of the donations are from people from the community,” Lopez says. “In November, we had fraternities and sororities hold a contest to see who can donate the most.”

Lopez says she has always had a passion for community service, and it is something she is considering delving into after she graduates. The Pitchfork Pantry is her way of giving back.

“It’s my way of doing my part for the community,” Lopez says. “That’s always been a big thing for me.”

For the 2020 year, Lopez says she wants to expand the pantry at a different location. She also wants to provide more variety of items to the students.

“We want to do a one-day produce pop-up tent so that people can get fresh produce,” Lopez says. “We’re hoping to do that this semester.”

Lopez says one of the most challenging aspects of food insecurity in college is the lack of nearby grocery stores; the closest one can be 1 mile away. She has the option to go home, but she sees many out-of-state students who don’t have that option.

Lopez says she wants the students to know the pantry is available to them and that they are a flexible and accessible pantry.

“This is a resource for students, and I hope it reaches a lot of people,” Lopez says. “I want them to know it’s here if they need it. We’re just one of many resources for them.”

The Pitchfork Pantry is a resource for students who may not know where their meal is coming from. Its student-run foundation makes it an easy resource for students to access, and one that can help them stay focused in school.

“As a first-generation student myself, food isn’t something a student should have to worry about,” Lopez says. “It shouldn’t be a reason not to go to school or have to work instead of getting an education.”  CT

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