While many of her fellow Ahwatukee residents were busy shopping for today’s meal, Lindsay Pacheco’s mind to a large extent was where it has been for a while – collecting food for her classmates.
The Arizona State University sophomore is one of the coordinators of the ASU Pitchfork Pantry, which helps students who can barely afford it to eat.
“I am very passionate about fighting food insecurity in college students and families, which is why I decided to take on the role,” the 2018 Valley Christian High School graduate said.
“Hearing stories of my own mom being a starving student reinforced my belief no student should have to decide between eating a good meal and buying a textbook,” she said.
The Pitchfork Pantry is a student-run food pantry serving ASU students.
It is run by volunteer students such as Lindsay and is fueled by donations – which they desperately need.
Since she lives in Ahwatukee, Lindsay is offering to even pick up donations so she can take them straight to the pantries on the Tempe and downtown campuses.
They can only accept non-perishable food items and hygienic products, but the needs are great.
Among them are rice, whole-wheat pasta, canned chicken and other meats, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, canned soup, oatmeal and cereal cups and similar breakfast items, mac and cheese, quinoa and any kind of noodles.
The pantry also stocks dish soap, bath soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, female hygienic products, shampoo and toilet paper so anything like this people can give will be appreciated.
Lindsay, a pre-med major who plans to go to optometry school, has a long history of helping people who face food insecurity.
As a member of Generation Church in Ahwatukee, she worked at its St. Mary’s Food Bank pantry there when she was attending middle school and high school.
When she started at ASU, she said, “I was excited to see there was a similar resource for college students on my campus.”
As long as students have an ID, they can visit the Pitchfork Pantry and stock up for the week on hygiene and food items.
Lindsay sees the need every day.
“I have absolutely encountered students who are in need of the pantry’s services,” she said. “Food insecurity in college students is a serious issue and has been around for decades.”
She said when her mother was a starving student, “she wasn’t aware of the resources that may have been available to her – or if there even were any.”
The thought of a student having to choose between a meal and a textbook bothers her and studies have shown those choices are far more common than one might think – although studies have disagreed on what percentage of higher education students confront this problem, with estimates varying wildly.
While some national estimates put the figure around 22 percent, ASU College of Health Solutions assistant professor Meg Bruening conducted her own study of ASU freshmen living in residence halls in 2016 and found among this group, the number was closer to 35 percent.
Bruening’s study also found food insecurity is associated with unhealthy eating habits and increased rates of depression and anxiety, according to the university magazine ASUNow.
ASUNow reported the students who use the pantry “range from doctoral candidates who are waiting for grant money to come through to students who have run out of financial aid money before the semester’s end to those who have grown up in environments of systemic food insecurity and may be food insecure before arriving on campus.”
A U.S. Government Accountability Office report released in January found a broad agreement the food insecurity is a problem, however, and recommended federal agencies improve college students’ access to food-assistance programs.
But statistics don’t drive Lindsay’s fervor, anyway.
She sees it in the students she meets.
“There is one specific student who comes to mind who comes in every week,” she recalled. “He comes in with such a grateful spirit. Without fail, he’ll always say ‘Say thank you to everyone who has donated. You don’t know how much it means to me.’”
Among Lindsay’s duties as one of five pantry coordinators – the other four are Hannah Rater, Roxanna Lopez Quintero, Ashley Thorp and Ariane Coyle-Vigil – are to run the facility’s social media, design all the graphics, organize events, collect donations and coordinate volunteers.
“I am also currently working on putting together a digital cookbook to help students cook with things they can find in our pantry,” she said.
The pantry started a couple years ago when a freshman named Stephanie Kaufman had a friend who dropped out of college because she couldn’t make ends meet even while working multiple jobs.
“She just couldn’t muster up the energy anymore to keep going,” Kaufmann told ASUNow. “At one point, I was sharing my meal plan with her. And even then, it just wasn’t enough.”
Lindsay said beyond food, the pantry also accepts cash donations. To help, contact her at email@example.com.