Gavilan College food pantry program grows under Covid-19

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SERVING STUDENTS Gavilan College’s food pantry program hosted its second Drive-Thru Food Distribution on May 5 for students and other members of the community. The event will take place two days a month, typically the first Tuesday and third Thursday. Photo: Juan Reyes

The front gate to Gavilan College has been chained up since the campus closed down nearly two months ago.   

But the locks came off for a couple of hours on May 5 as the school’s food pantry program hosted its second Drive-Thru Food Distribution event for students and other members of the community. 

A little more than 400 registered households picked up their free groceries in Parking Lot A at Gavilan College located at 5055 Santa Teresa Blvd.

Annette Gutierrez, supervisor for the CalWorks Fresh Success and Feed program, said 80 percent of those households picking up food were students.

“They’re just extremely grateful to have a little bit of relief with the food because now they can spend their dollars on paying for other things that they need to during this time,” she said. 

Each family was provided with three boxes of food that included fresh produce, non-perishables and perishable items such as chicken, milk and eggs.

The school also received a large donation from Taylor Farms that included pre-packaged salad mix and vegetable mixes.

“Unfortunately, especially with the student population, there’s a high number of students that are food insecure,” Gutierrez said.

Those receiving food were asked to stay in their cars. They showed staff an email with proof of pre-registration for the event using their phones or a printed copy.

Like most food drive-thru events, the food was placed directly into the trunk of people’s vehicles. The volunteers loaded 50 cars per 15 minutes in a two-hour span.

Gutierrez mentioned it’s important not only to serve the student population but the entire community as well.

“If you lift our community then everybody gets lifted,” she said. “Gavilan College is really committed to meeting those basic needs, especially during this time.” 

Last month, Gutierrez said they served a little more than 300 households and had to close down the registration link within two days.

They saw the need was so great that they increased the amount of food for 400 households.

Gutierrez said previous to Covid-19 they had a monthly distribution in Parking Lot H, which was first-come, first-serve. 

She mentioned some families are not used to the new method of pre-registering and need some guidance.

“With Covid, we’re not registering onsite, we’re trying to limit any encounters with folks and any exposure by keeping everyone in the car,” Gutierrez said.

Claire Boss, instructor for the Child Development Educational Studies program, was one of several volunteers loading up the trunks of vehicles. 

“This is my community, this is where I work and I’m always trying to find ways of doing more,” she said. “I love teaching and I love being in my program but I also love connecting with others.”

Boss said this is a chance for her to get to know Gavilan College and the resources the school provides. 

She said students from her class also put together an activities book for the families.

The activities book includes ways to provide creative ideas for parents and children without going out of their way to purchase extra items.

Boss said it’s about using materials at home and creating games such as treasure hunts, among other activities.

“We’re not in the classroom but we wanted to figure out a way to still advocate,” she said.

LEARNING MATERIAL  The Child Development Educational Studies program put together an activities book that was handed out during Gavilan College’s food pantry program Drive-Thru Food Distribution event on May 5. Photo: Juan Reyes

Boss added that Gutierrez has done an excellent job in terms of the safety aspect and providing families a secure spot to pick up groceries. 

“What I like is some of the cars have their children and everyone is coming together,” she said. “That’s what’s really important.”

Gutierrez said they plan on having two distribution events per month. The next one is scheduled for May 21 from 12:30-2:30pm.

In an effort to serve as many families as possible, the school is accepting just one person from each local household to receive food at this event. 

Gutierrez mentioned there will still be food available if the campus is not open for the new semester.

“We’re committed to serving our students and meeting their basic needs, as well as our community,” she said. “We’ll continue to assess the needs as we move forward, hopefully at some point our students will be back on our campuses and we’ll be able to serve them like we were before.”

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