The Bobcat Pantry launched on August 30th of this year. You read that right, there is a new resource on campus that is open to all students–graduates and undergraduates alike–which is known as the Bobcat Pantry. This Pantry is a resource that provide food support as well as assistance in the application process for CalFresh. The new Bobcat Pantry is located in (Terrace Center) TC-131 which is across from The Den in the housing office area. It is open on Monday and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm for pantry purposes, and Wednesday from 10-12 and 1-4 for CalFresh sign ups.

 

I interviewed with a few members of the Basic Needs Security team, which is the department that helped get the pantry space refurbished and operational, along with many other departments on campus. I asked each of the members a couple of questions and to gain some insight, here is what they have to say:

 

The Bobcat Pantry works on a points system, with the points being an arbitrary number, and you get five points each week. You are only able to go once per week, so it is recommended that you utilize all of your points during your visit. The pantry is choice-based in that you are able to “shop” for the items that you would like to take home. The items come from a combination of places, including the Campus Community Garden, the Dining Center(s), the Merced County Food Bank, Fresno Food Commons, and other local farms.

 

Q: How has the launch of the new pantry made you feel?

 

“I would have to say that [the launch] has made me feel more positive and willing to come to campus. Students have been more willing to come and pick up food and [to] talk about their insecurity of food. They are more interested in the dialogue ‘ how can you help us and how can we help you’. How can we use our space to be more “noticed” and bring people together.”

 

Q: Do you think that students are utilizing this resource?

 

“I think yes, we have seen a steady increase in the amount of students that we have. The space oozes positivity, and individuals are coming to us because they feel more comfortable and open to coming. They are feeling more empowered to reach out to use these resources. it is very important and needed, and everyone is understanding that it is necessary.”

 

There is also a bulk dispenser to promote sustainability and lessen food waste. During the opening week of the pantry, those who visited received a tote bag, a small produce bag, and a mason jar which is used for the bulk items. The bulk items typically distributed are oats, beans, and pasta. Additionally, there is a take-a-bag/leave-a-bag system. One can take a reusable bag from the pantry if they forgot to bring their own that day and they are encouraged to bring a bag to the pantry space whenever they have the opportunity to do so.

 

The hope is that the Bobcat Pantry becomes a resource hub that not only provides students with resources, but also educates them in as many ways as possible. These educational pieces could be the CalFresh portion of the space or the sustainability piece.  The team really encourages all students to utilize the resources available to them and is willing to answer and questions via email (basicneeds@ucmerced.edu) or follow on social media for periodic updates on Facebook, Instagram, and/or Twitter.


Photo Credit: Andree Souder.

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