Pop-up pantry provides staff members with free groceries

A second event is planned for Dec. 9

November 30, 2021
Author: Imran Ghori
November 30, 2021

UC Riverside staff members with basic food needs can now make use of a new pantry program providing free grocery items for UCR employees.

UCR Staff Assembly, R’Pantry, and UCR’s Basic Needs department are partnering on the effort, which launched Nov. 19 with a pop-up pantry where volunteers distributed bags of non-perishable grocery items and vegetables to staff members.

Staff pantry pop-up
Facilities Services employees Blanca Ochoa, Gloria Peñaloza, and Rosa Rodriguez, were among the staff who stopped by the Staff Pantry on Nov. 18, 2021. (UCR/Sandra B. Martinez)

A second pop-up pantry is scheduled for Dec. 9 from 2-5 p.m. at the roundabout near Pentland Hills and the Resident Services office. Free bags of food will be provided on a first-come basis to the first 100 staff members, who can walk or drive up to the pop-up to retrieve items. Employees will be asked to scan a QR code to verify they are staff members.

Jeff Girod, UCR Staff Assembly president, said the two events are the first in a year-long pilot program. In the winter and spring quarters, they hope to establish regular hours where the staff pantry is available to employees.

The Nov. 19 event showed a great demand among staff, with people lining up quickly for bags filled with items including pasta, cereal, carrots, and apples, he said.

Staff pantry pop-up
A line of staff members pick up free groceries at the pop-up pantry on Nov. 18, 2021. (UCR/Sandra B. Martinez)

“We just wanted to dip our toes in the water and see what the need was,” Girod said. “The need was great.”

R’Pantry has been on campus since 2014 providing emergency food, household, childcare, and hygiene product to students. It’s seen regular growth among users experiencing food insecurity.

Dante Kruise, R’Pantry coordinator, said R’Pantry and the Basic Needs department worked together to figure out an accessible location and what resources they could provide.

“We simply hope to do our part in fulfilling an existing need for support for staff on campus,” Kruise said. “We hope that more staff understand that this resource is available to them and that we welcome them to come and take advantage of it.”

Girod said UCR is only the third UC campus, along with UC Berkeley and UCLA, to establish a similar program for staff members.

The group had long been considering such a program, noting that there are many in the area who lack basic food access. The California Department of Social Services found that there were over 100,000 CalFresh recipients within a 10-mile radius of the campus as of 2018.

“We need to support our staff, and this is how we can do it,” Girod said.

The pantry program was made possible through $134,000 to purchase food and hire a part-time employee and student workers. The funds were part of a total $1.7 million in federal emergency relief funds approved by Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Elizabeth Watkins to support staff through equipment purchases, expansion of mental health and wellness resources, professional development, and the staff pantry program.