Triton Food Pantry Provides Free Food to Struggling Students

The UCSD Triton Food Pantry opened on Feb. 5, offering free food to all students, though the purpose of the pantry is targeted toward students who find it difficult to afford meals. Located on the first floor of the Original Student Center, it operates 18.5 hours per week. It is currently funded through a grant from the office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, though there are plans to have future operational costs covered by UCSD Associated Students.

The Triton Food Pantry came about as the result of a survey taken of UC students in 2013, which found that about 25 percent of UCSD students skipped meals “somewhat often,” “often” or “very often” in order to save money. The project was originally undertaken primarily by Muir College Dean of Student Affairs Patty Mahaffey, but the pantry was ultimately made possible through work from several campus organizations, including University Centers, A.S. Council, the Financial Aid Office and Student Affairs, among others.

Mahaffey released a document to the UCSD Guardian describing the goals of the Triton Food Pantry.

“The primary goal of the food pantry is to provide free food to UC San Diego students who are experiencing food insecurity,” the document stated. “As cost of living and college expenses increase, some students are faced with difficult decisions as to how their money will be allocated. Food is often perceived as a flexible expense, and some students will choose to skip meals or choose less nutritious, but often cheaper, options.”

The space will be directly managed by two student managers, A.S. council members Colin King and Jeremy Snyder, as well as a small volunteer staff. It will operate for a block of three to four hours every weekday, and those times will change every day. According to A.S. President Robby Boparai, this is meant to make sure that students will not have time conflicts with the Triton Food Pantry’s hours every day. Students will be allowed to walk in and take any amount of food during those hours, though student IDs will be scanned at the door to limit these trips to once per week.

King commented on the use of the honor system to monitor the Triton Food Pantry.

“We figure that if you’re in need of a snack or a meal, there’s a reason why you’re using the food pantry,” King told the Guardian. “We don’t want to ask them personal information, which might deter them from using this service, so we want to make it as open as possible. Abusing it is something that could happen, but we’re not expecting it.”

The space used to be a part of the office for A.S. Lecture Notes, and $50,000 in funds were given by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs for start-up expenses, including the room’s renovation. According to Boparai, nearly all of that money has been used, as was planned. A.S. Council plans to vote on a referendum that would provide funds for the Triton Food Pantry, in addition to looking for further funding from community donors.

The food is being provided at a reduced cost by the San Diego Food Bank, which will keep the new food pantry stocked for a small fee.

A.S. Council and the Triton Food Bank managers are hoping awareness will spread through word of mouth, though they are looking into advertising in Price Center as well as possibly sending an email out in conjunction with the Financial Aid Office.