After the Associated Students of CSU Guinn and Li Puma 2014 campaign promise of a CSU food pantry was said to have been altered, the Collegian sat down with Samantha Guinn to discuss ASCSU’s new direction with the project.
Stephanie Mason: Can you explain what the initial idea behind the food pantry? Why was it important to your campaign?
Guinn: Originally, I had the fortune of talking with my lab partner last year who was super amped about it. It was just an idea that we wanted to do. So she was on the food insecurities committee with me. That’s kind of how I got more involved in it after hearing it originally from administration last year. The idea behind it is that a lot of our peers, especially in the Mountain West Conference, all but three have fully functional food pantries. Their demographics are a little bit different than ours in that they don’t have the food bank that we do here in Larimer County. I see there is a need on campus for a little bit of assistance for people who identify with food insecurity and not just students, but faculty as well. I think that is something that we not only in ASCSU need to take into account, but also as a community of CSU we need to make sure we are all taking care of each other.
SM: Can you further explain what “food insecurity” means?
Guinn: Food insecurity is anyone who has a need for assistance in any food related aspect. It could be if they are on government food stamps or if they use any food bank all based on their income per person. I know that it is definitely something that impacts a lot of people. It is a program to help you if you need help.
SM: Can you explain other ways you are looking into this problem on campus?
Guinn: Through the responses on surveys, what we had heard through working with SLiCE is that CSU is very different than other schools. The reason that I say that is because the reason that a lot of these food pantries work across different areas, not only among our peer institutions in Colorado but also among the Mountain West Conference is because they don’t have a readily available food pantry in any other capacity. So, Larimer County is treated a little differently. Larimer County Food Bank actually has a food share program right next to and attached to the building that houses the food bank. In other areas, the food bank is just a distribution center where there is donated food to different churches, and shelters, and stuff like that. Fort Collins works a lot better than most other food banks because we do have that option for food share, unlike other areas.
That’s why CSU is a little bit different and that is one of the things that we had heard back from the survey on. We already have a food share program in close proximity and a food bank is on the bus route too, so people have access from CSU to get to the food pantry. So, with the overwhelming response of people being worried about their dignity, that was a big concern for a lot of people. That is something that I really want to respect for people. If they are not going to use assistance because they are worried about the anonymity being questionable, then we need to look in another direction.
When the survey came out, we gave five different options … Almost everyone was in favor of the (free or reduced) meal swipes. Only two of the 180 respondents said that they wanted a food pantry. With those numbers taken into consideration, we didn’t want to say ‘oh we see you want food swipes, but actually we’re going to do the food pantry instead, even though no one really wants it. We’ve also been able to meet this summer to talk about the possibility of free of reduced meal swipes for students and faculty. I think this is more of a way we are probably going to end up moving. Not that the food pantry is taken off the table, but but this day and age at this time people are more in favor of the food swipes option so I don’t want to negate their voices.
SM: How would this meal swipe system work?
Guinn: The way it’s going to work is based on a FAFSA score for students, as well as an application process for students, too, because we know there are a lot of them that don’t have a low FAFSA score, but at the same time still have to support themselves financially. We want to take that into consideration. This way, we could identify different needs that a food pantry might not. It would identify people who eat gluten free, or (vegan) or dairy free, that’s all accessible for the residence hall and dining hall. At a food pantry, we couldn’t exactly have those needs represented.
SM: Does this alteration affect your other campaign promises?
Guinn: We actually did run on the promise of a food pantry, but I think we are identifying those with food insecurities by going with the food swipe program. As of right now we are still on track for most of them.
Collegian Reporter Stephanie Mason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.