Saturn Macias comes from a big family: There’s his dad, his mom, two sisters, two brothers and himself – seven in all. With so many mouths to feed, he was only able to attend George Fox with the help of scholarships. But when his dad’s income dropped significantly in 2019, money started to get tight. Then, in the midst of the pandemic, Macias’ family relocated from California to Dayton, Oregon, and paying the bills got even harder.

That’s when he found out about Bruin Community Pantry, an Office of Student Life initiative that includes a food pantry where students can get groceries at no cost. Soon, Macias was able to bring home food for his whole family, taking some of the load and stress off of his parents during a difficult season.

Student Saturn Macias standing on the campus quad looking at the camera

Saturn Macias

“It felt really good to be able to help my family,” Macias says. “It was really a blessing to have the pantry there during that time.”

One week into the spring 2021 semester, Macias’ grandmother passed away. Quite suddenly, his family had to temporarily relocate to California while Macias stayed behind in Oregon to continue his classes. Thanks to Bruin Community Pantry, he was able to feed himself while they were gone.

“My parents didn’t have to stress about me going hungry,” Macias says. “I told them, ‘I have access to the pantry. Don’t worry about me.’”

University students across the U.S. are increasingly going hungry while in school, with many finding it difficult to pay for both healthy food and their education. According to a 2019 study conducted by Temple University’s Hope Center, 45 percent of the 86,000 college students surveyed from across the country reported experiencing food insecurity over the previous 30 days. The researchers defined food insecurity as “the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe food, or the ability to acquire such food in a socially acceptable manner.”

In a recent study at George Fox, 19 percent of participating students indicated that they were experiencing a temporary hardship that impacted their ability to have enough to eat. Meanwhile, 13 percent of George Fox students said they were regularly unable to afford sufficient food.

In short, Macias’ situation is far from uncommon. Food insecurity is not an issue happening in distant countries or at dysfunctional universities. It’s happening everywhere, including at George Fox right here and now.

Student holding a grocery bag kneeling down and taking a can of beans off the shelf of the pantry

Already burdened with tuition payments, many students struggle to pay the basic costs of living. With little to no margin for error, unexpected medical bills or lost jobs can have disastrous effects with far-reaching consequences. When students are forced to choose between having enough to eat and continuing to follow their dreams, some choose to drop out of school. Others skip meals, go hungry or choose cheaper, less healthy options, all of which can have negative impacts on both health and academic performance.

“College students don’t have a lot of money,” Macias says. “Money is something that can bring huge amounts of stress on top of all the work you have to do in college. It definitely impacts students’ work in the classroom. Having access to the community pantry takes away from that stress. It reduces the anxiety of having to worry about if you’re going to have enough money for groceries for the next month.”

Though primarily intended to address issues of student food insecurity, Bruin Community Pantry is open and available to all members of the George Fox community. Any student, regardless of need, is invited to take advantage of the pantry’s stock of healthy food and grocery essentials. The hope is that, since the pantry is available to everyone, there will be no stigma attached, and those students who are truly experiencing food insecurity will feel completely comfortable taking advantage of the program.

2021 Spring Semester
More than…
2,100 people served
2,400 pounds of food donated
$22,000 in monetary donations
from 95 individual donors

The pantry survives through donations of both food and money given by community members. The Office of Student Life hosts food drives periodically throughout the year, collecting non-perishable goods like canned food, rice and coffee, as well as frozen meat and vegetables, and household basics like shampoo, toilet paper and toothbrushes. Volunteers man the food bank, helping stock and distribute items to students as needed.

With the community pitching in to help, George Fox hopes to ensure that no student ever needs to choose between having enough to eat and continuing their education. For students like Saturn Macias, Bruin Community Pantry makes a world of difference.

“Having the pantry available has given me and my family relief and joy,” Macias says. “Because of the pantry, I had enough food to eat. I’m super grateful.”

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