Every day, Ian Policarpio worries about how he will afford his next meal. Despite the sophomore music education major’s busy class schedule, he works for UberEATS late at night, using the money he earns to pay for meals.
However, since Policarpio discovered the free food pantry in the Cross-Cultural Center this semester, he takes crackers or soup from the pantry a few times a week to supplement the meals he purchases. Now, he has more time to sleep and study, and spends less time worrying about food.
“If I’m thinking about what I’m going to eat next, I’m not thinking about homework or my next test or when I’ll go to a practice room or clubs,” Policarpio said. “If I’m driving around at 2 a.m. to deliver food for money to buy my own food, then I’m not studying or sleeping.”
During the holiday season, members of Hillel and Swipe Out Hunger collect non-perishable food items to stock the pantry in the Morlan Hall kitchen and educate students about food insecurity. The pantries in Morlan Hall and the Cross-Cultural Center provide free, non-perishable food for students in need.
Although some may see Chapman as a university full of “rich white kids,” some students cannot afford meals and suffer from food insecurity, which is “the lack of reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food,” according to the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness.
“If I’m driving around at 2 a.m. to deliver food for money to buy my own food, then I’m not studying or sleeping.”
While the food pantry makes his life easier, Policarpio said he still sometimes feels alone as a student from a low-income family. Sixty-four percent of Chapman students born in 1991 came from families who made $110,000 or more per year, according to a 2017 study by The Equality of Opportunity Project.
“I felt humiliated because no one goes to the food pantry who doesn’t need it,” Policarpio said. “So if you see someone going to the food pantry, it’s like a big flashing sign over your head that says, ‘This kid can’t afford to eat.”
As a student from a working-class family supported by his mother’s income, Policarpio said he faced culture shock when he arrived at Chapman. He cares little about the opinions of “rich kids,” but he is self-conscious when his friends discover he relies on charity in order to eat, he said.
“What’s embarrassing for me is having my friends who care about me and support me, to have them see me go into the food pantry and then offer me food. It sucks to feel dependent on other people for food,” Policarpio said.
Twenty-seven students currently have access to the pantry in the Morlan Hall kitchen, said Sherri Akau, the associate director of Residence Life and First Year Experience. The Morlan Hall food pantry is monitored by Resident Director Omar Zuwayed, and is funded by donations and money allotted in the Dean of Students and Residence Life budget, Akau said.
To access the food pantry in the Morlan Lounge kitchen, students must email the Office of Residence Life and First Year Experience, Akau said. However, students don’t need permission to access the Cross-Cultural Center pantry, said Negeen Lotfi, graduate assistant for the University Program Board and Student Union/Recreation.
“We want students to feel safe to ask for help, so we never question why they need access,” Akau said.
Food insecurity can affect students physically, academically and emotionally, said senior Carolyn Crosby, who is president of Swipe Out Hunger. The club is part of a national organization that fundraises to end student hunger by collecting unused meal swipes at the end of the academic term, according to the Swipe Out Hunger website.
Crosby and Hillel members are planning more food collection events this semester to encourage students to donate food purchased with their leftover Panther Bucks, Crosby said. In the future, Crosby hopes to implement a meal swipe conversion program with Sodexo, she said.
“If we can raise awareness in our community by giving back to Chapman’s food pantry, then we can help students on our affluent campus that face food insecurity,” Crosby said.
Raizi Simons, a junior communication studies major and Hillel’s director of social action, wants students to understand the importance of helping those who are less fortunate on Chapman’s campus, especially during the holiday season.
“It’s important to highlight (food insecurity) and not make it seems so taboo to talk about because (having food) shouldn’t be students’ main focus or worry in college,” Simons said.
The Office of Residence Life and First Year Experience plans to improve and expand the food pantry by providing healthier food options with feedback from students, Akau said. Since Akau began working with the food pantry, she has seen how it improves students’ experiences at Chapman, she said.
“There’s a sense of comfort that students receive from knowing that there’s a place where they can find food, and it’s rewarding for us to provide that resource,” Akau said.