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Cuesta opens food pantry to address student food insecurity 

Cuesta campus San Luis Obispo.

–In an effort to address student food insecurity, Cuesta College recently opened a food pantry on the San Luis Obispo Campus. Located next to the campus bookstore in room 5305, the Cougar Food Pantry is open 10-12 hours per week and stocked with a variety of food, including canned tuna, oatmeal, granola bars, cup noodles, canned beans, soups, peanut butter, quinoa, spaghetti, and more. The pantry is open to all students.

“Food insecurity can negatively impact a student’s academic performance and mental health,” said Cuesta College Student Life and Leadership Coordinator Dr. Anthony Gutierrez. “It is important to address these issues and make sure our students are successful inside and outside of the classroom. It is our hope that the Cougar Food Pantry will help Cuesta College accomplish this.”

According to a report by the Urban Institute titled Assessing Food Insecurity on Campus, one in five community college students live in a food-insecure household. In addition, a 2017 survey conducted by the California Community College’s Chancellor’s Office found that 57 percent of California community college faculty, staff and administrators reported direct contact with students experiencing insecurity with basic needs like food.

“The Cougar Food Pantry has seen a great response from our students,” Dr. Gutierrez said. “Since we opened our doors on April 10, we have had nearly 400 visits to the pantry.”

To be eligible for the pantry services, students must be enrolled in at least one course and sign in with their student identification number. The Cougar Food Pantry is open:

• Mondays, 2 – 4 p.m.
• Tuesdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
• Wednesdays, 8:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
• Thursdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

In order to celebrate the food pantry’s opening, a ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held on Wednesday, May 2, at 2:00 p.m. in front of room 5305. The public, students, faculty, staff, and administration are invited to attend.

In the fall of 2018, a food pantry will open in the new North County Campus Center located in Paso Robles. The college also plans to host ‘pop-up’ pantries in the future and distribute items in various outdoor locations.

The food pantry funding is the result of Assembly Bill 453. Passed in 2017, the bill allotted $7.5 million to the University of California, California State University, and California Community Colleges systems to support initiatives to end hunger on college campuses. The California Community College System received a one-time allocation of $2.5 million; Cuesta College received nearly $18,000. A fund to sustain the Cougar Food Pantry has been established through the Cuesta College Foundation. To donate, call the Cuesta College Foundation at (805) 546- 3279 or donate online.

For more information on the Cougar Food Pantry, call the Cuesta College Student Life and Leadership Department at (805) 546-3289 or email studentlife@cuesta.edu.

In addition to the Cougar Food Pantry, the college is also fighting hunger through its Food Bank distribution sites. The college became a Neighborhood Food Distribution site in 2016 for the Food Bank Coalition of San Luis Obispo County. The sites are open to the public the third Tuesday of each month from 3 – 5 p.m. on the San Luis Obispo Campus in Parking Lot 3 and on the North County Campus in Parking Lot 10. For more information, call the Cuesta College Student Life and Leadership Department (805) 546-3289 or go online.

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About the author: News Staff

News staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote and edited this story from local contributors and press releases. Scott Brennan is the publisher of this newspaper and founder of Access Publishing. Connect with him on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, or follow his blog. He can be reached at scott@pasoroblesdailynews.com.