Not wanting to melt in the summer sun that was already sweltering at 9 a.m., I stepped into Building A of the Los Banos Campus of Merced College in early September. I decided to check out the campus’s food pantry, a place I had heard rumors about but never actually visited.

I’ve been a student at the Los Banos Campus for six months now, but I  had no clue where this pantry was. After talking briefly with the front desk, I was motioned over to the pantry, a small room at the corner of Building A. It’s the first door on the left past the front desk.

It’s a simple, plain room, but its riches contain more than meets the eye. “Food pantry,” I found out, is a bit of a misnomer. 

It’s more of a “necessities pantry,” with food, clothes and hygiene products. The motto seems to be “If you need it, they’ve got it!”

I was introduced to the room by Naybe Bustos, a student worker who helps with the food pantry. Naybe politely asked me to take a quick printed survey (my name, contact number, etc.) in order to gain access to the supplies of the room.

She toured me around the room from her seat. (She wasn’t being impolite; it truly is that small of a room). She pointed at a shelf filled with clothing, then over to the next shelf that displayed hygiene products, then over to the last shelf that had  mac and cheese, soup and beans, among other things.

Students can get one reusable bag full of groceries every two weeks, Naybe told me, as well as one drink and one snack daily, if they so choose. The snacks, she said, usually don’t come in until noon.

So I returned to the pantry later to find even more riches. The snack shelf had been restocked. Potato chips! Granola bars! And cold sodas in the fridge, a godsend on a hot day like today!

Naybe told me that campus students not only can access the supplies in the pantry, but they can also donate supplies to it.

Discovering such a privilege like this made me realize the importance of nourishment for a student. I’m fortunate enough to not to need a bag of groceries, but even the snack I chose today (it was Fritos, to the curious reader) was fulfilling.

Clothing, hygiene products, and food– especially food–are deeply connected to a student’s wellbeing. Physical nourishment opens the pathway to intellectual nourishment.

A first possible stop along the way to both kinds of nourishment? The small room in Building A, to the left of the front desk.

Jonathan Simione