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MARICOPA — Central Arizona College recently began a food pantry program in all campus libraries in hopes of supporting essential nutritional needs.

The program started last month and is located at all campus libraries of CAC.

According to Adriana Saavedra, director of library services and a member of the committee, there are 60,000 people in Pinal County who do not have the resources to meet their nutritional needs.

“Our college wanted to do this for a while and we’ve been talking about it for quite some time. We understand the needs of Pinal County,” Saavedra said.

According to its website, the CAC Food Pantry is part of a larger initiative intended to improve student success and increase upward mobility by combating the negative effects of hunger within the community.

Although it is located on college campuses, anyone is welcome to donate or access the food provided. Many donations have been made from the faculty and staff of CAC, which took the committee by surprise.

“I am blown away by the staff contributions,” Sherrie Licon, committee chair for the food pantry committee, said. “We’re thankful that we have faculty and staff that comes in on a daily bases.”

The food pantry started simultaneously on all campuses of CAC.

The committee makes sure that pantries are constantly stocked and maintains patron privacy.

“We want to make sure that people understand that there is no shame in going into the pantry,” she said. “We make efforts such as telling anyone who asks about the pantry if they would like to ‘see it’.”

The food pantry committee consists of five members, all faculty of CAC. According to Saavedra, essential needs such as emergency housing, health benefits and food pantries are all important factors to provide for the students.

Ultimately, the committee’s goal is students’ well-being and helping the students succeed academically by providing an environment where the students’ needs are met.

“If a student is having troubles getting food, they’re not going to be thinking about the test, they’re going to be thinking about where the next meal is going to come from,” Saavedra said. “This is supposed to be an exciting time in your life and to not be worried about food.”

Most frequent non-perishable items include peanut butter, dry pasta, ramen cups, canned meat, granola bars, cereal and canned fruits and vegetables. They also accept toiletries such as soap, deodorant, toothbrushes and toothpaste. All locations are opened from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Monetary donations are also available via the CAC Foundation through the website https://centralaz.edu/community/foundation/giving/donation/.

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