Warrior Pantry continues to provide students through the pandemic

Carmen+Lopez+at+El+Camino%27s+Warrior+Pantry+hands+a+bag+of+groceries+and+a+gallon+of+milk+to+a+student+in+a+car.+The+Warrior+Pantry+has+been+able+to+provide+students+that+need+some+assistance+with+basic+needs%2C+such+as+groceries+for+meals%2C+by+moving+to+an+outdoor+location+and+adapting+to+a+drive-thru+or+pass-through+format.+%28Mari+Inagaki%2F+The+Union%29+

Carmen Lopez at El Camino’s Warrior Pantry hands a bag of groceries and a gallon of milk to a student in a car. The Warrior Pantry has been able to provide students that need some assistance with basic needs, such as groceries for meals, by moving to an outdoor location and adapting to a drive-thru or pass-through format. (Mari Inagaki/ The Union)

While classes at El Camino College remain online, the Warrior Food Pantry is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to help students pick out their next meals.

The pantry has a variety of foods and toiletries in store for students to pick up via drive-thru distribution in Parking Lot B, next to the Manhattan Beach Boulevard Modules (MBBM).

The pantry is “designed to assist students here at ECC with a portion of their basic needs,” Special Services Professional Kim Cameron said.

Cameron partnered with two food banks to help provide the pantry with food.

The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank provides frozen products for the pantry, including cheese, precooked chicken, tilapia, rice, and applesauce.

“They do have some food that we can purchase at a low cost, but for the most part, we’re able to go there and get free food every week,” Cameron said.

Food Forward provides the pantry with fruit and vegetables. Cameron proclaims them as the biggest organization in California. 100% of the produce collected are donated to hunger relief agencies across eight counties in Southern California, according to the organization’s website.

“[I] know who they were and I got in touch with them, and two months ago, I started picking up produce Wednesday from them, and I mean a lot of produce,” Cameron said.

Food provided by the food banks nears expiration, in contrast to the food Cameron buys out of her pocket. The foods Cameron purchases are good for the long-term, such as canned goods, pasta and other non-perishable food items.

The Warrior Pantry was founded in 2017 to help provide students at ECC with bare necessities in food and toiletries. Cameron started in the Warrior Pantry as the overseer in November 2019, months before the COVID-19 pandemic.

But when the lockdowns began, the Warrior Pantry implemented regulations to keep students safe.

“They couldn’t go into the pantry and pick what they wanted,” Cameron said, “They had to wait outside and we had to measure off 6 feet in-between.”

After the campus shut down and all students and faculty transitioned to online learning, Cameron came up with the idea to start a pantry drive-through service. She moved all the supplies from the Physics Building to MBBM, where the pantry would be closer to the parking lot.

When first initiating the drive-through distribution, only a handful of students stuck with Cameron and helped around the pantry in difficult times.

“They were just a small crew, but they really stuck with me and did a lot of work,” Cameron said.

Slowly but surely, the director of Purchasing and Risk Management, Michael Pascual, allowed the pantry to have volunteers, although the process is long and timely.

According to Cameron, first, they have to fill out their application, then be approved by human resources. Upon approval, a background check must be carried, which takes a couple of weeks to a month by the time they fill out their application.

“So it took a little while, but finally, things started to go a little bit better,” Cameron said.

Anisah Moutra, biology major, used the pantry when she didn’t have enough money for food after her classes ended. Now she volunteers there and says she wishes to give back to the community.

“I felt that the Warrior Pantry was doing so much for other people, and they did so much for my family that I just wanted to help give back,” Moutra said.

The Warrior Pantry relies on donations and help from the LA Regional Food Bank and Food Forward for free supplies to keep the budget steady.

With the help of the El Camino Emergency Fund in response to the pandemic, a portion of those funds go to the pantry, which Cameron deems essential and instrumental for the items they spend on.

“I have to be really careful not to spend it all right now because then we won’t have anything to buy later down the road,” Cameron said.

David Becerra, a federal work-study student for the pantry, encourages students to stop by and try some of the foods and other products they have in store.

The Warrior Pantry has an assortment of fresh produce for students to pick up from one of four stops in their new drive-thru format. The other stops are focused on providing other essentials such as toiletries and water. Image taken Tuesday, Sept. 22. (Mari Inagaki/ The Union)

Becerra says that the pantry is good for experimenting with new foods and different products and saving money.

“We may not have the [grocery store] displays, but we have the foods,” Becerra said.

 

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: BOTH PHOTO CAPTIONS WERE UPDATED OCT. 20