By RYAN YAMAMOTO
SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — Three days a week, a line forms on the basement floor of San Francisco State University where students show up for a pop-up food pantry.
The pantry is free for any student who needs food, and the need is growing.
“We help at least 300 to 400 a week, but we are still getting an influx of students asking how they can sign up,” said Tatiana Ramos, who is the interim-Senior Director of Productions who help operate the pantry, along with a team of student volunteers.
Horace Montgomery, the Assistant Executive Director of Programs, started the program five years ago.
“One of the things this educated me on, was don’t assume you know what hunger looks like,” Montgomery told KPIX 5. “We all think college students are fine, I assumed the students in the dorms were fine.”
Curtis Tam, a marketing student who recently discovered the food pantry said, it is hard finding time to study, work and pay rent, especially in San Francisco.
“I got some bread, a cabbage, some potatoes, some milk and few snacks,” said Tam. “Just some basic stuff, will help me get through the week.”
Leonie Barth is an exchange student from Germany, and is a regular at the food pantry.
“In Germany, it is really cheap to buy food, and here it is very expensive,” said Barth. “We were shocked when we went to the supermarket the first time, and it was so expensive.”
A 2019 study by Temple University showed 41% of four-year college students, had experienced food insecurity, and 44% were worried about running out of food.
“So, it is not just about giving the food, it is about giving quality food, provide nourishable energy for your brain,” said Montgomery. “Our hope here, is that we also become that stop gap so you don’t actually have to go to the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, that you can stop here, so we don’t have to help you later on.”
For Montgomery, who graduated SFSU two decades ago with a degree in Psychology, he sometimes wishes he had a food pantry when he was a student.
“To be honest, we were all lucky we made it without this service,” said he said. “When I look back now and I see what I’m able to provide for our students a look what I provide for students that’s the first thing, I think I am a little jealous. I wish we had it, but I am happy to be able to provide it, because I do know that from notion of wishing I had it, I know it is important to make sure it is had.”
The San Francisco State pop-up food pantry relies on a partnership with San Francisco-Marin Food Bank for fresh produce and food. Montgomery was recent named a board member of the SF-Marin Food Bank.
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