Food Pantries Meet Needs

By Victoria Portillo

Food pantries called Coyote Cupboards are now located at College of Southern Nevada’s main campuses to provide for current students and staff in need at no cost.

Harvard University published a study in November 2018 titled “Food Insecurity on College Campuses,” that stated, “Up to half of the nation’s college students might struggle with food insecurity, meaning that they often don’t have access to food. The problem transcends geography as well as the divides between community colleges and four-year colleges, private and public, elite and non-elite.”

Brian Akins, CSN’s director of student life and leadership, says that food insecurity is a major detriment to students completing their education at CSN.

A Sept. 16, 2019 press release from the College said, “A grant totaling $300,000 from the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension helped CSN establish the pantries, which will be operated in cooperation with Three Square Food Bank and the CSN student government.”

“The Coyote Cupboards are an outcome of CSN’s commitment to placing students first,” says Akins, in that press release. “This grant will help us lower the number of CSN students who experience food insecurity, which is far too high.”

The press release stated, “It is estimated that as many as 7,000 students—about 20 percent of CSN’s student body—will access the pantries this school year. In addition, as many as 5,000 students are expected to access Fresh Food Farmer’s Markets held at the pantries on alternating Fridays.” Students can get milk and produce at these Markets.

CSN student Steven Diaz, a pantry visitor, lives in a little house in the back of his parent’s home and works part-time at his dad’s diesel maintenance business but says that, “Sometimes there’s not much work so anything I can get really helps.” He is grateful for the pantry. “I got a food package, hand sanitizer and baby wipes.”

Diaz acknowledges a stigma people face from receiving assistance when they need it though his message to anyone who is hesitant to use the Cupboards is to, “Just go for it. People are here to help.”

Pantry visitors can choose from a variety of personal hygiene products, prepackaged food options as well as bagged food for home-cooked meals without requiring proof of need, according to Akins.

CSN sophomore Zarria Pitman, a student worker at CSN’s Charleston Student Union, says her experience with assisting visitors is eye-opening. There was a moment she remembers assisting a single mother at the pantry. “She came to the Cupboard and she cried because of how helpful the Cupboard was and how it gave baby wipes for her daughter. I can only imagine how hard that must be.”

Pitman says making visitors feel safe and supported is her goal. She encourages them to utilize the Cupboard if they need it. “It amazes me of what the Cupboard’s power is to students on our campus and how much they appreciate it.”

Akins wants an even wider impact by increasing awareness about Coyote Cupboards so that the entire College is aware of its existence. “We want this bigger,” Akins says.

He adds, now volunteers can join a student advisory committee to assist with future fundraisers and outreach. Staff and community members want to donate money and items to the pantry and they are now working on a formal process to accept those.

Akins knows that food insecurity is a real reason some students are derailed from their academic dreams. That is why he started the pantries. “So, the food is just a resource that helps in the meantime.”

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