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Once 'A Closet,' CSU Long Beach's Food Pantry Keeps Growing

Two women in black shirts, blue jeans and aprons stand in a kitchen preparing food. There are all kinds of produce, spices and cooking materials on the counter next to them. In the background, students talk amongst themselves.
CSU Long Beach's new Beach Kitchen offers demonstrations that administrators hope will make students more comfortable using ingredients found in the school's Beach Pantry.
(Courtesy of Associated Students Inc.)
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What once was a small storage closet has since blossomed into a bodega style food pantry for California State University, Long Beach students to shop for all sorts of groceries, for free.

The school opened yet another expansion last month, adding a demonstration kitchen where students can learn how to make simple meals using ingredients available in the pantry.

The kitchen is the latest marker in CSULB’s work to address student hunger.

In 2015, Rashida Crutchfield, an assistant professor in the School of Social Work, conducted a survey of 23 CSUs and found that 1 in 4 students struggle with food insecurity, defined by the federal government as unreliable access to nutritious, affordable food. Crutchfield collaborated with student leaders within CSULB's Associated Students Inc. (ASI) to create a pantry of shelf safe food items and produce for students to take home.

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After two relocations to upsize, CSULB’s Beach Pantry now has two rooms full of food. There is a refrigerator, freezer, and produce fridge tucked in the neatly organized shelves with canned and other shelf safe items.

Katie Dunbar, an English education major at CSULB and expecting mother recently discovered the Beach Pantry and has been a regular customer ever since.

“The pantry has been such an invaluable resource for me as a broke and pregnant college student,” said Dunbar. “Not only have they made fresh, organic produce available, but the variety of their pantry items has supplied me with healthy ingredients I now use in making many scrumptious dishes at home.”

The Beach Pantry is personal for Christina Limon, the pantry’s coordinator and a CSULB alum.

“I remember as a student, being here on this campus, there were days where not only myself but some of my fellow classmates would try to attend events or what have you just because some days we were living check to check,” she said.

Limon estimates that 300-400 students visit the pantry each week. Students are welcome to stop by the pantry three times a week to pick out five non perishable grocery items and unlimited produce.

From Market To Meal

Maggie Bauer, a junior nutrition and dietetics major, started using the Beach Pantry in 2021 and has gotten creative with the pantry items.

“I started going in there and just grabbing what looked good and kind of making recipes in my head as I was walking through,” said Bauer.

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Bauer is a member of Student Active in Community Health (SACH) and had the idea to share the recipes she and other members created using pantry items with fellow students. They have even started sharing the recipes with other school pantries across Long Beach.

Floor to ceiling white shelves hold all kinds of produce.
A section of CSU Long Beach's Beach Pantry.
(Payton Bell
/
LAist)

Beach Kitchen opened on April 20, with roughly 250 students checking out the new space. Bauer gave the first demonstration in the kitchen: how to make a healthy and filling chickpea salad with a guacamole dip on the side. Students took samples after the demonstration.

Cindy Osegueda, 5th year health science major, said she's excited about the new demo kitchen.

“When you see a recipe that has five ingredients, it's a lot less intimidating. So you're like ‘Oh I can definitely do a five-step recipe,’” Osegueda said. “I felt excited that we had something like this on campus now, you know, for a resource. I don't think students have had the chance to get hands-on experience and I think with the things that we've been through this past year, students are craving more interaction and I feel like this just does that for them.”

Limon recognizes the community support as a huge help. They receive donations from a series of organizations and community groups including Food Forward and Long Beach Organic, a non-profit organization that runs eight community gardens.

One of Limon’s favorite parts of her job is receiving texts from students with photos of the meals they created with the groceries they picked up from the pantry.

“It's really rewarding,” she said, “when you get those emails or texts of the meals that they've made.”

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