Have you heard of the Bruin Community Pantry? I sincerely hope so. If not, you may be missing out on one of the most excellent resources for George Fox students.

My freshman and sophomore year, I would occasionally stop by the “grab and go” section because I’m the type of person who actively seeks free snacks. But this year, I’ve been visiting the main section of the pantry on a weekly basis. I can’t tell you how much of an incredible blessing this opportunity has been.

How It Works

Let’s start here: How does the food pantry work? The pantry is located in Room 109 in the Roberts Center. When you walk in, you will see two QR codes displayed in the middle of the room, one for first-time visitors and one for returning visitors. This will take you to a Google Form used for check-in. Once you’ve filled this out, you’re free to shop from any of the fridges, freezers and shelves.

There are some grocery bags available, but I would recommend bringing your own in case they’re running low. I have a bright pink tote bag dedicated to the cause. Students are encouraged to only take what they need, in order to share resources. You can always come back for more.

There is also no limit on the frequency of your visits. That “grab and go” section I mentioned earlier sits outside of the main pantry. This is intended for anyone who needs or wants a pick-me-up, or maybe doesn’t have time or money for lunch between classes. There’s a variety available here as well. And that’s it! Pretty simple.

A Culinary Epiphany

student holding up bag of food

Now, to get personal. Here is a comprehensive list of food I was able to make, prior to this school year: instant oatmeal, instant noodles and toast. As a result of this culinary incompetence, I relied on whatever I could eat straight from the package: granola bars, yogurt (the kind that doesn’t taste anything like yogurt) and peanut butter straight from the jar. Deli ham and pepperoni sticks were the only meat in my diet.

Who knew this was not the healthiest or the most economical strategy? A lot of you, probably. Not me, though. Completely oblivious. 

During the fall semester, I wanted to meet a certain standard of nutrition and to save as much money as possible. Time to change strategies. I decided to see what the Bruin Community Pantry really had to offer.

What I Like to Pick Up

Here is an explanation of what I typically get on my weekly trip to the pantry:

student reaching for food

So … There's a lot of uncooked meat available at the food pantry. Four months ago, uncooked meat signified a bland, dry dining experience. Bland because I had never learned anything about seasonings, and dry because I know I can handle eating overcooked chicken better than I can handle food poisoning.

This is one of the biggest advantages of using the food pantry. I was forced to learn how to cook so that I could make use of these bare ingredients. It is an immense relief not to need the word “instant” on the packaging to consider something edible. I no longer have to struggle to reach a livable protein intake because I have the power to make uncooked meat into cooked meat that tastes good.

I now know how to take the bare ingredients and turn them into familiar meals. My fiance and I even challenged ourselves to make our own breaded chicken tenders. This is an invaluable life skill that students aren’t taught in a class. Cooking, I mean. You could probably live without homemade chicken tenders.

Expanding My Food Palate

student holding food

A large portion of my current diet is made up of foods that I used to scorn. Being in ample supply at the food pantry, I have learned how to prepare these, my childhood adversaries, so that I not only tolerate but enjoy them. Tuna is a good example. My parents used to mix the funky fish into our Kraft Mac and Cheese – betrayal. But, as the food pantry is so well stocked with canned tuna (and other canned fish), I tried getting friendly with it. All we had to do was mix it up with mayo and mustard and heap it on a buttery grilled cheese sandwich.

Now don’t think that the food pantry only offers the boring staples. If you visit regularly, you’ll have the chance to pick up some items you never expected to appear on your plate. For instance, alpaca burgers. Yep. One week, sitting casually beside your orthodox beef and turkey, we discovered packages of ground alpaca. Why not try it out? In my opinion, it tasted like meatloaf. Not bad at all.

The food pantry has delighted me with variety, discovery and inspiration, all for the price of absolutely nothing. Not to mention, easing my mind about my health and my finances. I would really like to thank Jere Witherspoon for working so hard for this program, along with the other volunteers. 

Learn More

If you would like more information about the Bruin Community Pantry, including its location and current hours, please visit the pantry’s website. And for making it to the end of this little rave, I’ll leave you with some bonus advice: Try and find out on which day of the week the pantry is restocked. The selection will be much better!

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