Every Wednesday and Thursday, students and student-parents line up outside of the Bears’ Den in anticipation of the R’Pantry opening its doors. However, on Oct. 19 and 20, the doors to the R’Pantry remained closed, as it had been cleaned out of food the previous week.
Evidently, the demand for the R’Pantry’s services has exceeded beyond what it can provide. It mostly subsists on food donations from Feeding America as well as the occasional donations of cash and food. The fact that the only free food security program on campus has to close down because of insufficient supplies is problematic — it indicates that it can’t fully provide what it promises. Even though it was closed for only a week, that could have been a week’s worth of groceries for someone who really needed it.
Though the R’Pantry is rather small and has only been in operation since last year, it provides each person a generous quota of 10 points, which can be redeemed for any combination of food and hygiene products. Furthermore, some smaller food items only compose a fraction of a point so it’s possible to obtain more than 10 items.
The problem is that there is no financial screening measure, so anyone who wishes to acquire food only needs to swipe their UCR ID card to get in. Such generosity could be the main culprit behind the pause in operations, as some individuals who don’t really need to utilize the resource take advantage of it. Applying a screening measure or a token system might be effective at preventing those who don’t need the service from abusing it; however such safeguards are time-consuming and might wrongfully exclude students who might not officially qualify but are having a bad week. Additionally, since the R’Pantry’s overall goal is to reduce food insecurity for all students instead of cater to a specific socioeconomic class, it seems that the most viable measure would be to reduce the quota it allows individuals.
Granted, there are students with families who truly rely on the R’Pantry. However, they can circumvent a reduced quota by bringing their children with them, as the points are awarded per person. Therefore, the more people in a group, the larger spending quota they have.
Most of the food products that the R’Pantry provides are non-perishables anyway, so a person can easily hoard enough canned food or dry food products to last them the whole quarter without having to go back. Also, since there’s not much of a variety of food available, a trip to the R’Pantry is hardly a complete grocery shopping experience. People would still need to go to the grocery store to acquire certain ingredients for meals. It’s not possible to subsist solely on the food that the R’Pantry provides, therefore it should only be utilized by people when they are in a pinch, and not on a regular basis.
[pullquote]…it should only be utilized by people when they are in a pinch, and not on a regular basis.[/pullquote]
The reduced quota could simply be a temporary fix until the R’Pantry expands. They could increase their inventory by launching food drives or actively campaigning for monetary donations from students and faculty. Such projects could achieve high visibility if the R’Pantry were to collaborate with other departments on campus such as Student Life, or even student organizations dedicated to community service. It would also be beneficial if the school were to invest in the R’Pantry as well. Considering the program’s increasing popularity, it is evident that the R’Pantry is an incredibly vital resource for students. UCR Chancellor Kim A. Wilcox recently raised $155 million dollars for “student support, faculty research, and infrastructure” — if even a fraction of that money were given to the R’Pantry, it would help the program a great deal.
Until the R’Pantry receives more support to provide for everyone, its inventory remains very limited. While it is the most accessible resource for students since it operates on campus, it is important to consider that there are a myriad of other options in the area such as the CalFresh program and the food box distributions around the city. These alternatives might be a little out of the way, but it is a bigger inconvenience when the R’Pantry has to close down for a week in order to restock.
Although it’s a valiant goal that the R’Pantry wants to ensure that no Highlander goes hungry, it needs to be realistic about how much it can provide. Reducing the quota won’t deprive anyone of food, it’ll only ensure that there will be more to go around for everyone.