Highline food pantry dishes out good eats

By Mitchell Roland - Staff Reporter

The Highline food pantry had a soft opening last week, but it has big aspirations for the future.

Mariela Barriga, who is the Student Success Coordinator, is one of the people who helped the pantry get off of the ground. Over the two days the pantry was open last week, around 130 people came.

The aim for this project is to help a problem that is all too prevalent on campuses.

"Food insecurity is common for college students across our nation," Barriga said.

This is a problem because it then affects students abilities to accomplish their school work.

"Food and diet impact your ability to learn," she said.

Highline spent a long time studying how to make the pantry a success.

There was a lot of background that went into this project. Highline conducted a survey to see what students wanted and how they could provide it.

"We really started a lot of the hard work a year ago," Barriga said.

One of the things that they found was that students wanted healthy options that were easy.

"People wanted grab-and-go, fresh, healthy meals," Barriga said.

Another thing that they found is that students and staff live close to campus. According to a study that Highline conducted, 89 percent of students commute less than one hour each day to campus.

This means that pantry is able to offer perishable items such as milk without them spoiling on a car ride home.

The pantry offers things such as wraps, bagels, and pastries from place like Costco and Starbucks, so people are familiar with it.

"The food is recognizable," Barriga said.

But Barriga wants to stress that the food bank is open for everyone on campus with a Highline I.D., not just students.

"We don't faculty and staff to feel like they are taking away from students," she said.

The food pantry is handing out exit surveys to people and will be analyzing the data over the summer, but the plan is to remain "flexible."

"The food pantry in May 2019 will look a lot different then it does is May 2018," she said.

Long term the plan is for the pantry to offer things such as clothing and hygiene products. Barriga said that the food pantry will be "adjusting one quarter at a time."

The food bank will also be offering cooking classes. According to the survey they conducted, 57 percent of students would be interested in taking a cooking class, and 45 percent want recipes with their food.

Barriga said that they are trying to be out on the forefront of this issue and are taking cues from other parts of the country. New York, for example, requires that every college has a food pantry on campus.

The pantry does not need donations of food but will be doing targeted drives for things such as hygiene products and spices. 

"We'll be having targeted drives to keep people involved," she said.

The hours of operation for the pantry were set for people on campus who "don't have options."

The pantry is open this quarter on Thursdays from 1-5 p.m and on Fridays from 1-4 p.m. in Building 16 room 180.

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