With limited food options on campus, the Merced College Los Banos Campus opened up a food pantry in January, 2022.
The food pantry is funded through the state but also receives donations from the faculty and community. Students can grab a snack and drink every day, and receive one bag of groceries each week.
There are also professional clothes, everyday clothes and hygiene products to take, as well as information about other on- and off-campus resources.
Food insecurity is a deterrent to student success at all levels of education making the ramped-up effort on campus vital to support students who live in the fourth poorest county (by per capita income) in California. Student Services Coordinator/Basic Needs Coordinator, Shannon Gragg, reports there have been about 200 individual students who have utilized the food pantry for daily snacks throughout the Spring 2022 semester. With increased in-person classes this fall, that number is expected to increase.
Student Naybe Bustos has been helping run the food pantry since its opening. Naybe will be starting her second year at Merced College and is majoring in business administration. Her goal is to transfer to San Jose State University and continue studying business with a concentration in marketing.
Naybe grew up in Santa Nella and Los Banos. She did not see herself attending Merced College until she was encouraged by one of her high school teachers. Naybe said her teacher reassured her that “it’s OK not to be ready to go to a four-year university right away.”
As a first-generation college student, Naybe was recruited by counselor Christina Fuentes to join a learning community where she would get extra support from her instructors. It was through a class in the learning community and in talking to the counselor that Naybe found out about working in the food pantry.
“I never had a job, but I needed a job,” she said. “The fact that it was going to work around my class schedule encouraged me to apply.” She commented that she learned a lot about resources on campus, made friends, improved her communication skills, and learned how to be a professional from working with other Merced College faculty and staff.
“The food pantry is amazing. Students really need the help. I have regular students who look forward to coming in and browsing the snacks and clothing. Students start asking more questions about resources that they may need.”
Naybe mentioned that although students are grateful for the snacks provided, they have requested healthier options.
The Merced College Los Banos Campus food pantry is located in Building A, Room A129, and is open this summer Monday to Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Anyone interested in donating food, professional clothing, hygiene products, or school supplies, should contact Jazmin Serrano, Acting Director of Student Services for the Los Banos Campus, at 209-381-6422 or email@example.com.