When battling an empty wallet and the ticking clock of a college schedule, it is often difficult to consider — much less prioritize — nutrition. Before college, my parents had always provided a well-stashed refrigerator with seemingly endless options that greatly contrasts my current bare one. I know I am among many who opt to skip a meal when it feels like an inconvenience. Personally, grocery shopping feels like an additional burden since I have to worry about getting my produce home before it spoils, or making it back to the store when it does.

Food insecurity is a prominent issue amongst college students, considering that many of us are preoccupied for a myriad of reasons and food is not usually our main priority. With college students’ nutritional well-being in mind, UCR’s Chicano Student Programs, Undocumented Student Programs and ASUCR launched “R’Pantry” — an on-campus service to provide free food assistance for all students.

Considering its goals and mission statement, R’Pantry can be a valuable asset to the campus community. The program began as a means to assist undocumented students who are unable to access financial aid and many support systems that may be open to other students. Since then, R’Pantry has been developed as open program to reach students of all situations, outside of the undocumented.

This decision is not only more inclusive but also the right approach to food assistance as it aids people of all circumstances. Simply because a student may not fit into a particular income bracket to be considered in need of support, does not mean that they do not face food insecurity. Student parents can also benefit from this program as they have an additional mouth to feed. R’Pantry conveniently provides food, personal care products as well as baby care items for students on campus.

The program utilizes a seven-point system to determine the portion of food that should be given to each individual student. Despite the fact that this may not provide enough food to sustain a student for the whole week, I believe the program is still valuable because it undeniably reduces students’ living costs and provides help.  

Although provision of food is their primary goal, the volunteers of the program are motivated to expand students’ knowledge about food insecurity on a global scale as well as nutrition. For instance, R’Pantry is working in collaboration with R’Garden to educate students about alternative means of obtaining food. This is important because the gardening skills imparted by R’Garden gives students the option to harvest their own produce which reduces the cost of eating even further. R’Pantry serves to assist students, not provide every meal.

A program such as this offers students the ability to utilize this resource in a way that benefits their studies. Without the constant worry about food and the cost of it, students stress less. During trying times when going off campus to purchase groceries is less feasible or when money is tight, R’Pantry offers a judgment-free refuge that can remedy the problem, at least for a little while. Additionally, with the volunteers’ concern for providing balanced options, students are able to sustain a healthy diet without breaking the bank —  thus not hindering their studies.

So next time you are debating whether you should skip a meal because of time or you just cannot afford to eat before class, consider stopping by the R’Pantry and fuel up.