A comprehensive student survey in late March revealed the many challenges MJC students are facing due to the college moving instruction and operations remotely as a result of COVID-19. Students' inability to secure food was a challenge that became severely magnified with the health crisis. "The fact that the Pirates Pantry was not available, due to the closing of the buildings, kept me up at night," expressed Vice President for Student Services, Flerida Arias.
VP Arias mobilized a team made up of Amy Yribarren, Director of MJC Healthcare Services and Jonathan Arias, Program Specialist for Pirates Pantry, and so the Pirates Pantry Relief Program during COVID-19 was born. Amy brought her expertise on public health to make sure the distribution of food would comply with social distancing and health standards. Jonathan brought all his background in logistics so food items could be packaged and distributed in a streamlined manner through drive-up and walk-up pickups by students. He also organized the rest of the team.
On Thursday, April 23rd, the project was kicked off, making food available from 10 am to 12:30 pm. VP Arias and Vice President for Student Instruction, Dr. Jennifer Zellet, were present to hand food boxes to families. A total of number of food boxes delivered were 208, made up of 192 drive-ups and 16 walk-ups. The estimated cost of the food distribution was $8,320.
Jonathan shared “We are humbled by the opportunity we have to serve our students and their families with one of the most essential elements there is, food! The smiles and expressions of gratitude we receive reaffirms that we are moving in the right direction. Our Basic Needs Program is showing how essential it is, especially in a time like this. We are #MJCStrong”
VP Arias served as the first point of contact for families driving up to collect their food boxes. She greeted some of them in English and others in Spanish. She could see the combination of need and excitement in their faces as they drove up.
When asked if she will be able to sleep at night, VP Arias responded, “In a way yes, but I know there is so much more need our students have and so we are gearing up for our next distribution on May 7th.”
The Pirates’ Pantry Relief Project will continue to distribute food boxes every other Thursday from the initial kick-off. To fill out the form to reserve your food box, please visit the Pirate’s Pantry Webpage.