UC Merced fighting food insecurity on campus

MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- From fresh vegetables to boxed cereal--a new food pantry at UC Merced is stocking up, and making sure students are not worrying about their next meal.

"Once they realize the services available to them, they taking advantage, then it's helping to stretch their finds which is limited when you're a student," said Basic Needs Coordinator Bavneet Kaur.

The Bobcat Pantry is getting ready to open its doors.

Coordinators say they received more than $150,000 in grants to make it possible, and are working with local organizations to receive donations.

UC Merced officials say more than half of the students on campus are food insecure.

Take it from Elizabeth Rodriguez. She started to worry about food after her financial aid was taken away in her sophomore year.

"My parents can't help pay tuition, help me with food, so living off campus was very hard," said Rodriguez.

She sought out resources and got help. As the manager of the new pantry, she is hoping to offer that same support to her peers.

"I definitely hope no one else has to deal with this, because it is hard about worrying when I am going to eat," said Rodriguez.

Students will have five points to spend, and the shelves will be labeled so they know how much they are spending. But the pantry is about more than just giving students food. It's also teaching them about nutrition and sustainability.

Reusable bags and mason jars will also be available at the pantry.

"Educating our students about food waste, sustainability, encouraging healthier heating as well as collaborating with our campus garden, and encouraging students to go visit these other resources," said Kaur.

UC Merced already works with Merced College for their annual food distribution, so this is just another resource to help students put food on the table.

The pantry will be open certain hours on Monday and Thursday.

Coordinators are getting the shelves ready, and the pantry will officially open August 30th.
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