With inflation rising, SLCC’s Bruin Pantry sees more and more students and staff seeking out its free goods

Pantry offers dry goods, canned goods, fresh produce and hygiene products at four locations.

(Kasie Bussard | The Globe, SLCC) Alex Bonifaz, an employee of the Bruin Pantry location on Salt Lake Community College’s Taylorsville campus, holds Armenian cucumbers, among recent donations to the pantry, which is free for students. SLCC students and staff.

This story is published jointly by non-profit organizations Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community Collegeto elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

Salt Lake Community College’s Bruin Pantry — where essential items are available for free to students, faculty and staff — has seen increased demand recently, amid rising national costs of goods.

Diya Shah, coordinator of Bruin Pantries, said more and more people are visiting the pantry, which offers products ranging from dry and canned food to fresh fruit and hygiene products.

“Yes… inflation and the rising cost of food [is] impacting people going to the pantry,” Shah said. “My Basic Needs Coordinator, myself and my student staff are educating all people to destigmatize using the pantry and food insecurity in general. It’s gratifying to see people coming back and feeling comfortable.

According to the September 2022 Consumer Price Index, the cost of all items increased by 8.2% over the past 12 months, and the cost of food increased by 11.2% over the same period.

Shah said the pantry has been through tough times before and she even dipped into her own pockets to keep the pantry stocked with items such as sanitary napkins and diapers. Earlier this year, Shah said she bought containers of formula for the pantry during the formula shortage.

The pantry has locations on four SLCC campuses: Taylorsville Redwood, South City, Jordan, and West Valley Center. Shah said the pantry is diversifying its items to cater to wider populations.

“West Valley is a very unique place because it primarily serves our Latinx community,” Shah said. “So because of that, we’re very good at bringing culturally relevant food out there that the community can use.” The pantry, she added, also does its best to provide customers with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

Acknowledging the impact of inflation on people’s cost of living, coupled with the growing demand from the pantry, Shah said she and her staff are working to make customers feel comfortable.

“I consider myself an introvert, but…connecting with people and talking to people…I think it’s really rewarding,” said Alex Bonifaz, an SLCC student who works in the pantry in under the college’s internship program.

The majority of pantry workers are students, Shah said, and she is aware of their needs.

Students who do not work with the pantry as part of a study or internship program are compensated with financial aid in the form of tuition waivers. Bonifaz said he believes the recent 4% increase in tuition fees, along with rising property prices, could hurt many students.

The pantry is always looking for help, Shah said, especially now that it is so busy. Those looking to help can stop by any of the four pantry locations during business hours or go online to submit a volunteer request.

The pantry also accepts donations during distribution hours. For more information on these hours, how to donate, and currently requested items, visit the Thayne Center webpage, slcc.edu/thaynecenter.

(Kasie Bussard | The Globe, SLCC) The Bruin mascot adorns the entrance to the Bruin Pantry location on the Taylorsville campus of Salt Lake Community College. The Pantry provides free goods to SLCC students and staff in need.

patrick kennedy wrote this story while a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published within the framework of a new collaboration including associations Amplify Utah and the Salt Lake Tribune.

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