The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

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The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

The Student News Site of California State University, Stanislaus

Signal

Warrior Food Pantry Distributing Free Food and Hope

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La puerta en el almacen de comida Warrior. (La Senal/Veronica Sexton) 

Tired of being forced to choose between this week’s groceries or filling your gas tank?  You’re not alone.  One in ten American households has experienced food insecurity in the past three years.
This is no surprise, considering the rampant inflation that has plagued the nation since the onset of COVID19.
The Central Valley supplies roughly one fourth of the world’s food, but students at CSU Stanislaus are struggling more than ever to secure healthy, consistent meals.  Thankfully, help is literally right around the corner.
The Warrior Food Pantry, which operates out of the Student Services Building, room 128, is open Monday through Friday, supplying students with up to 10 items a week at no cost.  
Great Need and Greater Kindness
“Right now we serve 700+ students a week,” said Basic Needs Lead David Siguenza, who helps run and operate the program. “That’s over a 32% increase from last year.”
Thankfully, a flood of new volunteers and workers have stepped up to meet the need. Among them is Xitlalli Sotelo (Freshman/Agricultural Science), who both works for and patronizes the food pantry.
“I like working there, I like everything about it,” Sotelo said, “The people there are very kindhearted.”
Jaret Valadez (Sophomore/Business Adminstration), a regular at the pantry, says that he visits the pantry not just for himself, but also for his mother.
“I cook my meals based off of what I get,” said Valadez, who enjoys getting creative with pantry ingredients. 
Valadez encourages potential patrons to stop by and check it out, and said, “They [the workers] are all super welcoming. They won’t judge you based on your situation. And also, it’s free food.”
Securing Affordable Meals
Siguenza aims to fill more than just his visitor’s stomachs; he also wants to fill their minds, by educating them on resources and food management.
Siguenza recommends budgeting, buying in bulk during sales, coming into the food pantry weekly, and attending the pantry’s bi-monthly food box distribution–the latter of which distributes over 4,000 pounds of food and close to 800 pounds of hygiene products every two weeks!
He also cautions students to educate themselves on “best by” dates.
These, Siguenza explains, often have more to do with freshness than food safety. While some products, like dairy and meat, really do go bad, others such as canned and dry goods, can last months beyond the date printed on the labels.
As much of the food available in the Warrior Pantry is provided through Second Harvest, much of it is also near the best-by date, or already expired.  However, that does not mean it is unsafe. Siguenza encourages students to research for themselves before discarding any food.
Another way to save on groceries is to check your CalFresh eligibility with the food pantry’s CalFresh Coordinator, to see if you qualify for state-awarded grocery funds.
NOONtrition Education
Stan State students can also expect to see changes to the NOONtrition program this fall according to Alexa Aguirre-Sanchez, the CalFresh Coordinator, who heads the revamped basic needs initiative that offers nutrition education via self-guided, online workshops on Canvas LMS.
The workshops aim to empower students at Stan State, including the Stockton campus, with the knowledge and skills to make informed and nutritious food choices.
Aguirre-Sanchez explains the online workshops include resources and activities based on Cal Fresh Healthy Living recommended curriculum that include a SNAP-Ed approved recipe with a cooking demonstration video.
Within the modules is a discussion board where students have a chance to interact with each other and where they will find a class evaluation and meal-kit reservation form.
When students complete the workshop, they can reserve their meal-kit and be entered to win a giveaway prize as an incentive for participation.
Registration is open October 16-20 for this month’s NOONtrition Education and the following week the workshop opens for students to complete the module at their own pace explains Aguirre. 
Students are given until Friday to complete this workshop and then reserve their meal kits. Meal-kit pickups are scheduled by the campus and a prize is awarded to two winners, one from each Stan State campus.
“Self-guided education empowers students to take control of their own learning and health decisions. It encourages them to be proactive in seeking out information and making choices that align with their personal health goals,” Aguirre-Sanchez said. 
The hope is to help students develop lifelong habits that support well-being throughout their academic and post-graduation journeys.
This months NOONtrition online workshop lesson plans are: Building a Healthy Plate and Planning Healthy Meals.
Looking to the Future
With more visitors than ever, the food pantry is currently balancing and re-evaluating their inventory. While some staples, like milk, have been discontinued, the pantry has begun to offer eggs alongside their traditional assortment. 
Siguenza is proud of the food pantry’s work, but he believes they can reach even more than the current 700 a week.
“I’m hoping we can get to 800, or 900,” Siguenza said.
Staff at the food pantry hope to increase turnout by increasing awareness. They rely on tabling information booths and presenting themselves at Student Orientation, and old-fashioned word-of-mouth.
Staff at the Warrior Food Pantry also hope to open a clothing closet within mere weeks.  
As a formerly food insecure college student who was also raising a child while in school, Siguenza has a personal understanding of what it means to scrape by on value meals. 
“My passion comes from [that],” Siguenza said.
Siguenza wants students to know that the pantry is here for them, whether they’re scraping by without a bite to eat at home, or they simply need a snack to carry them through the day.
For more information on the Basic Needs Department and Warrior Pantry contact David Siguenza [email protected] 209/667-3772 located in Student Services SS123. 
Contact Alexa Aguirre for questions regarding NOONtrition Education, CalFresh inquiries, and assistance [email protected] 209/667-3088

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Warrior Food Pantry Distributing Free Food and Hope