Photos and story by JOSH BAILEY
In 2019, Social Services Student Organization head Rachel Lord originally put forward the idea of a food pantry for Pima Community College.
After a year of waiting for the approval by Pima staff, the SSSO Club was able to stockpile a wealth of nonperishable supplies for distribution by the start of the first semester of the school year.
Volunteers such as Susan Ho and Cameron Meyer soon signed on and have been tending the food pantry for students in need since then.
“We order things on an as-needed basis and pick them up from the Community Food Bank downtown, that’s how we’re operating right now. After the grant runs out, I’m not sure what we’ll do. That’s just a conversation we’ll have in the foreseeable future.” Ho explained.
Originally, the Community Food Bank Co-Op of Downtown Tucson allotted the Club to source food items once a week in addition with community donations. Proper funding through the college was not abundant, so community donations were heavily relied on, as well as food drives and bake sales to provide money for the donation’s food.
In early 2021, the Food Pantry was approved for a $25,000 grant sponsored by the Community Food Bank. The generosity of the community of Tucson is responsible for the sustainability of Pima’s food donations. Without this, Ho said, the pantry would simply not have the supplies necessary to give a nutritious supplement consistently to students that truly need it.
Students and faculty can donate non-perishable food items to the blue food donation bins located around West Campus. These bins detail what items are needed such as pasta, canned beans, cereals and other items. The SSSO is planning to purchase more donation bins that would be placed around several Pima campuses. Susan hoped these might contribute to the supply that would be available for distribution.
The Aztec Food Pantry also currently doubles as a community resource center, where students can go to study, socialize with others and become informed on the various resources and help offered by the community. Currently the distribution room offers pamphlets relating to support for various social services such as registering for SNAP benefits, housing assistance or information on mental health resources.
“We have a basic list of essential items we need, and we’ve been so thankful for everyone able to provide us with donations,” Ho said. “It’s been pretty good so far, but this pandemic has been hard on all of us.”
Students or faculty wanting to visit the food pantry can do so by entering the Santa Catalina Building on West Campus. The Food Pantry is located in the rear of the cafeteria. They are welcome to people willing to volunteer their time and those who want to, can speak to Cameron Myers in the Pantry Resource Center from 11 a.m to 1:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays.