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Pacific Cafe out, Ram Pantry in
February 7, 2017
The end of the spring semester at will mean the end of the Pacific Cafe but a new opportunity for the Ram Pantry as well as expanded food options for students at Fresno City College.
When the contract for the Pacific Cafe expires, the Student Services department hopes to utilize the vacated space to accommodate storage and distribution needs for the Ram Pantry.
At the January meeting of the State Center Community College District board of trustees, the academic senate presented a resolution they passed before the trustees for a request for additional space and funding for the food program offered by the school.
At that time, however, ideas concerning that effort were already underway.
“We’ve given notice to the cafe vendor [Pacific Cafe],” President Carole Goldsmith said. “We’re going to be looking at that space with the idea that we want Ram Pantry there.”
The college had been looking for a space for a while, according to Goldsmith.
“I can’t take a classroom offline, and I can’t take an office offline,” Goldsmith said. “We are busting at the seams.”
Ideally, the new space would offer storage for dry goods, refrigeration for perishables and space for hygiene goods, as well as service for students, five days a week.
The first problem will be getting through the process.
“The next step is bringing our district folks to walk the site and doing some brainstorming,” Goldsmith said. “Then there’ll be a design piece, and there’s probably about 14 steps between those steps.”
Regulations regarding building modifications get tricky, especially when food is involved.
Only after a district-sponsored committee assesses the site can designs be drawn up and submitted to the California Department of Architectural Design.
“That’s going to take several months to do,” according to Goldsmith. “It won’t happen in the summer. We’ll be lucky if we get anything going in the fall.”
Beyond the Ram Pantry, the school administration has been exploring with the idea of bringing in food trucks to offer nutrition to students when food options are unavailable.
“We don’t have food choices in the evening,” Goldsmith said. “If we could have local food vendors in the evening, we can do some work with seating behind the bookstore.”
Anita Handy, the manager at Taher, fears what competition might do to Taher, the current contractor for on FCC campus.
“If we even break even, we’re happy,” Handy said. “If they’re going to bring in a taco truck, why are we going to be here?”
After minimum wage went up in January, prices followed, according to Handy, and that made making money difficult for Taher.
The food service employs 14 workers on campus, including developmentally disabled adults from the Transition to Independent Living and Education program.
Taher pledged to support the Ram Pantry and how it is addressing food needs for students.
“I had an opportunity to talk to the vice president of Taher about our food security needs and what we could do,” Goldsmith said. “They’ve offered their informal support in terms of offering low cost options.”
Handy said she has not yet received any notice about adjusting costs for hungry students.
The college began offering food to students in January, 2016 through the Ram Pantry in an effort to address food security issues with students.
Ram Pantry began in a closet, much like a similar program at Fresno State, according to Sean Henderson, interim dean of student services.
“We’ve been working on bringing food to campus for a while. We launched it without a permanent location or budget,” Henderson said. “We were really counting on the good faith of the folks that work here to support it.”
The Ram Pantry typically serves about 300 students a week, and last year, it provided support to 7,000 students altogether.
Much of the food comes as donations from various sources, including staff and faculty offering money from their paychecks.
“We are currently receiving just under 70 payroll deductions a month,” Henderson said. “It ranges from $5 to $25 a month.”
The majority of food comes from the Open Hands Pantry, which supplies the food for only a $75 delivery charge. Other foundations such as Poverello House and Cornerstone Pantry also contribute to feeding students on campus, Henderson said.
Several clubs on campus also hold canned food drives which end up on the plates of students.
“We know that many of our young people received a free or reduced breakfast or lunch, coming from Fresno Unified School District,” Goldsmith said. “It is ludicrous to think that just because you turn 18, your issues with food security go away.”