Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, Los Medanos College, California State University East Bay: Food Pantries at Colleges in Central and Eastern Contra Costa County Initiative

Food insecurity is one of the most important social determinants of health, but many may not be aware of how many veterans and other students attending the region’s colleges – and their families – are affected by this problem. The Community Health Fund (CHF) became aware of it in mid-2016, shortly after Los Medanos College (LMC) launched a food pantry and began to forge a relationship with the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano. Around the same time, California State University East Bay (CSUEB) was expanding its main campus pantry to its Concord campus. All three entities expressed interest in exploring ways to collaborate.

To facilitate this collaboration, in August 2017, the CHF named the Food Bank, LMC and CSUEB-Concord beneficiaries of a $30,000 Executive Director discretionary grant. The organizations will use the grant to partner with La Piana Consulting to develop a health initiative aimed at maintaining and enhancing each college’s respective food pantry services in 2018, while also exploring the feasibility of a formal partnership to increase food security among the region’s college students and their families.

For CSUEB-Concord, key activities and expected outcomes include:

  • Creating additional space for food storage and refrigeration
  • Purchasing a refrigerator
  • Training faculty, staff and students about food resources on and off campus
  • Contracting with the Food Bank for food delivery service to campus
  • Expanding outreach efforts by:
    • Increasing on-campus pop-up pantries
    • Enhancing the campus website and social media to include pantry program and external food insecurity resources
    • Targeting messaging to high need students via the financial aid department
  • Advancing long-term planning for pantry program expansion. Exploratory ideas include:
    • Integrating food issues within the academic program
    • Building out a culinary health demonstration lab
    • Developing a community garden
    • Expanding pantry operations into the evening hours

For LMC, key activities and expected outcomes include:

  • Hiring a part-time program assistant
  • Extending existing pantry hours from two days per week to four days per week
  • Expanding outreach and education
  • Adding fresh food distribution
  • Contracting with the Food Bank for food delivery service to campus
  • Advancing long-term planning for pantry program expansion. Exploratory ideas include:
    • Formalizing food and nutrition education activities
    • Purchasing a freezer for frozen food distribution
    • Pantry expansion to the Brentwood campus in 2020

For the Food Bank, key activities and expected outcomes include:

  • Hiring a part-time college pantry coordinator
  • Supporting LMC and CSUEB-Concord efforts to ensure continuation of their respective pantry programs and expansion planning
  • Partnering with LMC and CSUEB-Concord to enhance on-campus CalFresh enrollment
  • Developing student-focused collateral materials
  • Working with each campus to establish fresh food and produce distribution
  • Adding Diablo Valley College and John F. Kennedy University to the collaborative

In addition, all three organizations view 2018 as a first step toward working together more closely in 2019. To that end, the Food Bank will serve as the collaborative planning convener, by maintaining regular communications with each college and promoting cross communication among all regional colleges around food security issues. Expected activities and outcomes include:

  • Hosting and facilitating, with a consultant, quarterly convenings aimed at:
    • Addressing and assessing each college’s operational needs
    • Understanding the barriers each college is encountering and strategies they are employing to overcome them
    • Strategizing about the effectiveness of and potential for formal collaboration in 2019
  • Developing a website portal specific to college pantries with resources and a discussion board