Episode 2: Campus Pantry Transcript

Aug. 3, 2020
[00:00:03.060] - Kayla

Welcome to Nutrition Navigator's podcast: Bringing Nutrition and Wellness to You. Together we learn from a variety of health professionals about their stories and how they contribute to the world that is wellness. This podcast is actually an extension of our Campus Health program, Nutrition Navigator Spotlight Series presentations. We are a monthly podcast where we interview health professionals in the field about health and wellness topics for college students. And this is our opportunity to grow and a build community with Arizona students.


[00:00:33.120] - Kayla

My name is Kayla. I'm the student coordinator for Nutrition Navigators, along with Ashley Munro, who is my co-host and one of the nutrition counselors at Campus Health and the advisor for Nutrition Navigators. On today's episode, we have our friends from campus pantry. We have Bridgette, who is the coordinator for campus pantry, and Michaela, who is campus pantry's student director. They will be sharing more about the great organization that they work for and the ways that students can support one another and stay nourished and healthy. Now let's welcome Bridgette and Michaela.


[00:01:12.110] - Kayla

All righty. Hello, everyone. So today on our Nutrition Navigators health podcast, we are going to be talking with our friends from campus pantry, Bridgette and Michaela. They're gonna be sharing more about the great organization that they work for and ways that students can support one another and stay nourished and healthy. And our first question for you guys is just to let our listeners know who you are, where you're from and what it is you do.


[00:01:39.970] - Bridgette Nobbe

Hello, my name's Bridgette Nobbe and I'm the current full-time coordinator of the University of Arizona Campus Pantry. I'm originally from Appleton, Wisconsin, but I moved down here when I attended graduate school. I've now graduated with my masters. I was a graduate assistant in the campus pantry, so I was doing that program and I am starting my doctoral work actually in agricultural education and higher education mixed combo. I'm looking to do more research on food insecurity and how that impacts students' development.


[00:02:09.950] - Ashley

Well cool. I didn't know that, that's awesome. Congrats. 


[00:02:13.870] - Bridgette Nobbe

Thank you.


[00:02:16.230] - Michaela Davenport

Yay, OK. My name is Michaela Davenport. I am actually the outgoing director of the campus pantry.  Worked for the pantry for three years during my undergraduate career here at U of A. And I spent two years as student director. I'm not sure if I mentioned this yet, but I grew up in Tucson. Tucson and the U of A is really my home. And now that I graduated, I am working for the Democratic Party as a field organizer. 


[00:02:45.710] - Ashley

Ashley here. I'm from Tucson too. You are too Kayla, right?


[00:02:50.130] - Kayla



[00:02:50.910] - Ashley

A bunch of Tucson originals.


[00:02:56.350] - Ashley

Very cool.


[00:02:57.220] - Kayla

Awesome. Thank you guys for introducing yourselves. Is there anything that you guys want the students to know specifically about campus pantry?


[00:03:08.410] - Michaela Davenport

I think that what I would want students to know is that it's a resource really for everyone. And I think a lot of times that we get students who come in and say, well, it can't be me, like I'm doing OK or other people have it worse. But the reality is, is that if you're a student and you're struggling in any way, like our resource is there for you and it's open and accessible to anyone with a CatCard. So I think that's really what I would want students to know, that their struggle is valid and that we're there to support them through their academic journey.


[00:03:40.750] - Kayla

Yeah, I completely agree with that because, you know, all too often I do. I mean, even myself thinks that or I meet other students who they figure it out and they're like, oh, campus pantry. Like, you know, we can get the food that we need without having to pay because we can't afford it. But at the same time, I feel like they think and I've even thought like, you know, I don't need it as much as other students when in reality it's like we are those students that should be utilizing it. Like, that's the point of it. I'm glad that you mentioned that. 


[00:04:09.880] - Bridgette Nobbe

Yeah. And I would say just to like add off of that of what Michaela said is that nationally, one in three college students experienced food insecurity at some point in their academic career. Our most recent data is actually from 2016, and in the fall we will be doing more research on that. But we're seeing in 2016 that we were seeing about 28 percent of our students were experiencing food insecurity. And when it comes down to that, that's fourteen thousand students on our campus that experience some form of food insecurity in their academic career. We serve over a thousand students a week. And this past year, from August all the way to May, we saw just under three thousand unique individuals. But there's a lot more students out there who are probably in need and aren't using our great resource. Whether that's a stigma or they don't know of our resource, that's why we want people to know about it. We want people to know that it's OK to come use our resource. We understand many of the people that work for the pantry are food insecure or have been food insecure. And we know that as costs are increasing, it's hard to be a student. It's hard to work long enough hours to be able to pay for things while also not working too much that your grades are suffering. Being a student is a really hard task, and that's why we just want to offer as much support as we can.


[00:05:24.370] - Kayla



[00:05:25.380] - Ashley

That was one of my questions too, and I was kind of reading your guys website is really helpful for all of those frequently asked questions. I thought it was a really good resource and we'll definitely put that in the show notes so folks can be navigated towards there. But I guess like a barrier. And I think we've already touched on a couple. But what do you think gets in the way the most of students reaching out or using the services on campus?


[00:05:51.730] - Michaela Davenport

Well, I think to sort of begin to answer that question. There's a lot of stigma behind being food insecure, like a ton. And so Bridgette and I, about a year and a half ago now, we started like a mission to sort of reach out to all the cultural centers and really understand what all the barriers were to marginalize students on our campus, accessing our resource. And a lot of it came down to cultural stigma and just not being able to ask for help or not knowing how to or the shame associated with asking for help. I think that's a huge barrier for students accessing our resource. And I think another one that isn't frequently or not frequently enough, in my opinion, touched upon is just time. Students time is stretched so thin. And I know I really felt that as a student that there is so much you have to accomplish in a single day that it can be hard to even find time to get to a grocery store. And U of A is situated in a food desert, so the closest stores are Fry’s or Safeway. And if you don't have a car or a bike or access to public transit, which is already honestly pretty garbage in Tucson, then it can be insanely difficult to even get fresh produce and then groceries that you really need access to. 


[00:07:06.200] - Ashley

That’s a really good point. 


[00:07:07.800] - Kayla

Yeah, that is. 


[00:07:10.350] - Bridgette Nobbe

Yeah, I would have to agree, I think stigma is probably the biggest thing. And then also we try to do as much education as we can, like Michaela said, and we try to do stuff at orientation. I know most of the time, as students are actually touring the university, tour guides mention our resource, but orientations are a really overwhelming time. And a lot of information is thrown at students in like a very short period of time. And then students are almost expected to remember that. And we try to do as much as we can to educate staff members around campus. Any interaction you have with the student just share resources and include one of our resources in there. We try to do as much as we can with faculty by adding basic needs statements into syllabi or mentioning that to their students on one of the first days of classes and they being like, hey, by the way, if you ever experienced food insecurity, here's a resource that exists. And then as Michaela mentioned, we try to do a lot of presentations within residence halls. We know not everybody lives in residence halls, but a large majority of first year students do at least. And then in different cultural centers and other spaces on this campus, we really try to bring awareness. Our other thing is as much awareness as we try to do, that stigma still exists. We find that trying to promote people to either go with a friend can help. One thing that we did with the transfer student center this past year was they were seeing that a lot of their desk assistants, many use the pantry anyways. And so what their desk assistants would do is be like it's pantry distribution time. I'm going to go down there. Anybody that wants to come with me, come join me. And so that student and the peers would come down, whether or not they took items, or they did it was that support. Very rarely do we see somebody come into the pantry for their first time by themselves just because of that stigma. And so trying to help students feel comfortable and a lot of time students will come back on their own. It's just that first time it's a little hard to ask for help right away.


[00:09:08.900] - Kayla

Alright. You mentioned that, you know, you're wanting to spread awareness and stuff, and so those friends that are going together; how are they finding out about campus pantry? Like, what are those ways that you reach out to them and connect to them? And what are some resources for students as well? 


[00:09:28.220] - Bridgette Nobbe

I think social media is a huge one. Our social media presence has drastically changed from August to now and like from last year to this year. And I think that with the support of, like Campus Health and different departments, like I know nutrition is one of the departments and SBS, a lot of times it's sharing our posts, like here's distribution. And so if you like or follow your college or one of these programs, you're seeing it on your Instagram story, your Facebook stories, like places that you already are. And so seeing that as a general reminder is really helpful. And we also like to say, even if you know our resource exists, you might not need us at that one time. But your junior year, you could have the flu and not be able to work for two weeks and then not be able to make rent or like put your food money towards rent and then you might find yourself food insecure. So just at least knowing of our resource might help you, or a peer along the line. That's another thing that we see a lot, is students being like, well, I know this resource or student hearing from their peers. So just trying to get that education out. I hope our presentations across campus have been beneficial. And I hope including stuff in syllabi is beneficial for students and they're able to learn about us from there. 


[00:10:40.760] - Kayla

OK, awesome. That's great. And so I also wanted to ask, so how did campus pantry actually start on the campus? 


[00:10:50.220] - Michaela Davenport

Campus pantry came about actually as the passion project of the graduate assistant. Her name was Michelle Sutton and that was all the way in 2012. Several years ago. And basically, they had some space in El Portal. So right across from Highland Market. And they would fill up a closet like of canned food and non-perishables. And then when the closet was full, they would lay it out on tables and like invite students to come and basically take what they need. It expanded more in 2015, when we have our space, when we first got our space in the student union and in 2016, we became a program under ASUA and dissolved our independent 5OC3 status, so our non-profit status, to become a non-profit under the University of Arizona Foundation. And then since then, there's been like really drastic growth. So the story that I would always tell when I give donors tours and things like that is that when I first began with the pantry in my sophomore year, we had a big day if we saw like a 110 students in the one day of distribution we had a week. And by the time that I left, I'm going to exclude COVID just because COVID is such like an odd, unprecedented time but really before then we were seeing like about 1,050 students a week with three distribution days and like 350 students a day. So that's pretty dramatic growth in that amount of time. But it is a really inspiring story that just really started with someone who saw this issue, I would say way before anyone else did. 


[00:12:21.540] - Bridgette Nobbe

And not only saw the issue, but then tried to address it. Like, that's the key. It's like I think that happens so much as we're like, oh food insecurity exists. Or like our students are homeless or we have a lot of students who aren't able to pay for textbooks. But it ends at like we acknowledge that this is the problem and there is no addressing that. The courage it took Michelle Sutton to go out there and start this program and now looking back on it of how far we've come, I think is incredible.


[00:12:47.940] - Kayla

Yeah, I think it's such a great resource, especially because, I mean, I've been to other universities like, you know, the orientations and I seldom hear them talk about anything that's even similar to campus pantry. I think it's awesome that we have a resource like that. And I'm sure if other universities had it, like those students would probably feel grateful that, you know, they have it. I think it's something that other universities should be doing for sure.


[00:13:17.070] - Bridgette Nobbe

Yeah, I think like you, you hit it in that you don't know about it. And I think a lot of institutions have food banks and food pantries, but they don't take that next step to acknowledge that their students are food insecure. And I think our institution sometimes doesn't do that either, because it is one of those things that it looks bad that your students are at a point that they cannot provide enough food on their own to support themselves and they're having to access an additional resource. And so I think the difference, though, is we do get institutional support that a lot of other universities don't. So we do have senior leadership who recognize that food insecurity is a prominent thing in college students in general and on our campus. And so they help support us in that way. But if we didn't have the staff, the faculty and some of this leadership to help us acknowledge that food insecurity exists and we're going to support you by giving money to the pantry to help support students or listening to you when you're talking about policies that need to be changed or that are affecting minority and low income students, we wouldn't have the progress we have. And I think that's the key is a lot of institutions do this like, oh, no, no, no, we don't have food insecure students, all of our students are fine and they are thriving on our campus, but food insecurity is so prominent. Don't hide it instead be like this is how we're supporting it, we know it exists, we know being a student is a challenge. So, like, this is what we're going to do to support you, so your health isn't impacted and instead like you're having that need met and you're fueling through and persisting towards graduation. 


[00:14:47.030] - Kayla

Right. And that's a great point, because then it also brings in that stigma, again, of those students not wanting to speak up because, you know, they don't want their classmates to know that they are food insecure or they're too embarrassed to just tell their friends, like, hey, I can't afford to go to dinner with you every night or go to lunch. So I totally, totally understand that.


[00:15:08.490] - Ashley

Can I ask one question? Just because I I went to University of Arizona, but it was before campus pantry was available to students. So it was new to me coming to campus as an alumni. And I was just curious, like how it works, just like the process of like walking through. Like, I want to go today, like, where do I go? How do I do it? What's the process? I guess.


[00:15:33.730] - Michaela Davenport

So do you want to go today in COVID times or go during normal times.


[00:15:38.430] - Ashley

That's true. I mean I guess probably not. Probably not COVID times. But how has it changed too? 


[00:15:44.880] - Michaela Davenport

Cool we can talk about both of those things so just feel free to jump in obviously, whenever. So the way it works, I could just step through it like start to finish. So typically, when we first open, there often is a line. But folks will wait in line and then we let in 10 folks at a time. Our space isn't super big and so we swipe CatCards. And the reason that we swipe CatCards is basically about a year and a half ago, we hit this big roadblock where we couldn't apply for any grants because we didn't have any idea who we were actually serving. And so that just gives us a sense of who we actually serve and how to better serve those communities. So folks swipe their CatCards, but they don't have to and we won't turn anyone away who forgets their CatCard, etc. So then they'll walk into the pantry and we operate on what's called the client choice model. And what I more often describe as a cross between a food bank and a grocery store. So a food bank in the fact that we distribute food, grocery store in the fact that you get to pick. So every day of distribution, there's a certain amount of points that you are allotted. So our most common point value is four. That's kind of like our status quo. It doesn't usually drop below four points. And most of our folks who frequent the pantry can expect that it'll be four and sometimes higher. And so then you walk into the pantry and there's like a I would say, a wide variety of foods. As we progress farther and farther, we are able to have more and more, which is really exciting. You find yourself getting excited about the little stuff, like having eggs and butter and sweet potatoes, it's all really exciting honestly. So we have a whole section of produce. So that's anything from squash, apples, oranges, bananas, sweet potatoes, limes, lemons, things like that. And then we have a multitude of sections of non-perishables. So it's things like cans of fruit, cans of veggies, cans of beans, packages of pasta, we have bread most of the time. Even like snack foods, like goldfish and granola bars and things like that sustenance to sort of get you through the day and milk and eggs, all that sort of good stuff. So folks will mix and match basically what they want. And so everything in the pantry is given a certain point value. So like a granola bar might be 0.5 points, whereas a loaf of bread might be 1 point. So you're going to mix and match until you get to that four points, then you walk out of the pantry. You have someone check your bag just to make sure that you counted correctly. And the reason that we do that is because when we're serving 350 students a day, we just need to make sure that the amount that we purchased is really going and spreading the whole day, so that the folks who come at the beginning and who come at the end are getting parallel experiences. Someone checks your bag and then someone weighs your bag. And the reason that we weigh bags is just for FSO. The financial services office, that's all, we just have to know how much is coming into the pantry and how much is coming out. And then folks are on their way. 


[00:18:45.490] - Ashley



[00:18:46.230] - Michaela Davenport

So that's really the whole process. 


[00:18:49.670] - Ashley

And it’s changed then you're saying since COVID? 


[00:18:50.590] - Michaela Davenport

Yeah, it has. 


[00:18:52.280] - Bridgette Nobbe

Then the COVID changes was first we moved locations. And so if you've ever been to the pantry initially, there's a staircase to the left of the info desk within the student union. You take that staircase down; most the time the gates locked, if the gates open. There's a like, welcome to the campus pantry sign in front of it. And that means that we're open for the day. If you go down, you're actually in this very small kind of dark and enclosed hallway. And at the end of this hallway is the campus pantry. So when the COVID happened, it was one of those things that: one, there was not really a way to social distance inside the pantry. And there is absolutely no airflow. And so we kind of thought about it, and having students come down to the space would not be safe for students, nor the staff and volunteers who are down there for a solid, you know, four some hours a day.


[00:19:40.550] - Ashley



[00:19:41.140] - Bridgette Nobbe

And so as bad as it is, when the student union had to cancel all of their events, the programming spaces opened up. And so the Sonora room that's across from the CatCard office on the other side of the student union was now open. And so thankfully, the student union allowed us to move there. They helped us move fridges there. We moved all of our shelves, and all of our food into that other area. And so that being said, now, where you wait for the pantry is actually outside. So, although it's a covered space and you're in the shade, you are in fact outside. It's completely open air. We went and we put the tape down every six feet as you'd see in like a normal grocery store. And we still limit it to 10 people inside of the pantry at one time. Our volunteers are staff, who are always wearing gloves. We have hand sanitizer at the entrance and the exit. We're cleaning down the tables. The refrigerator doors are probably the biggest spot where people are actually touching stuff that they're not taking with them. That's the thing is most often when somebody touches a half gallon milk, they put it in their bag right away. So we're not having contamination through that. But it's those fridge doors. When students swipe their CatCard instead of us holding their CatCard and swiping it for them, we just hold the card reader and the students are swiping it themselves. So we're cleaning down that card reader as well. And then probably the other big one is how our produce works. And so, as Michaela said, you just pick the items you want; well for produce we didn't want students touching that, so although we ask students to wash their produce. We don't really know for sure. We don't know if somebody is digging through to get one specific pepper or one specific tomato. So what we do is now we have them all lined up and we have two volunteers assigned to that position. And so students walk in and they'll be like, I want two bananas, I want two oranges, a red apple, a green apple and two peppers. And then the volunteer puts it in their bag for them. And so that way we're not having that touching and that contamination because all of our volunteers are only touching that. They have their gloves, their sanitizing, and often changing gloves when need be. And so we've tried to do that to be more cautious. Most likely, these methods will stay throughout the entire year. We ask students to wear masks. But at this point, it's not required. And then our other thing is just the numbers and so as of course, students don't return after spring break, our numbers decreased. There were still about 600 students living on campus. And that does not include the students who are from Tucson, who are still in the area. But there are about 600 students on campus. And so we did see a drastic decrease from about a 1050 per week to about 400 to 500 was our absolute max but 475 was our regular. And then the other thing that we saw was an increase in staff. And so we've always been open to anybody with a CatCard so faculty, staff, anybody. But we were seeing that as people are being furloughed or their hours were laid off or cut back. We're having more staff in need. And so a lot of those individuals were now using our resource and we still see that as we're in our summer distributions now. But again, a lot of the students are gone. We have a lot of international students who are still here and a lot of graduate students. But I think for a lot of those students, Tucson is their home now and they don't go back to stay with family members in the summer anymore.


[00:23:00.470] - Ashley

That makes a lot of sense. And, you know, this episode is going to come out right as school, hopefully, I guess, right as school resumes in the fall. So it'll be, I think it's good for students to know, even in August that, you know, programs are adaptable and we adapt to the times and, you know, follow guidelines and do other things to keep our students safe. And that's the ultimate goal. But that you're still there.


[00:23:24.920] - Bridgette Nobbe

We are, and we're adapting with student union changes and stuff too. So I know right now in June, they're just slightly talking about what are we gonna do and are we going to have to wear masks when they go into the buildings. Like, if that becomes a requirement, we already kind of have a plan for what we're gonna do. And no matter what, even if we're in online classes again, the pantry will still be open in the fall. The only thing that will change is like, again, the hours that we're open and potentially like the methods for how people take their things. But no matter what, more than ever, students need us as a resource. And so we will be here no matter what.


[00:23:59.280] - Kayla

 Well that's good to know. It's good to know you guys are ready for anything. 


[00:24:03.030] - Ashley

Yes. Do you want to do. Well, thank you, ladies, so much for being here today. Do you want to end it out or round it out with some fun questions just so our guests or our listeners can get to know you guys a little bit.


[00:24:16.270] - Kayla

Rapid fire questions. OK. Did you want to do that, and do you do that? 


[00:24:21.340] - Ashley

No, you do them.


[00:24:22.390] - Kayla

OK, allrighty. Ready. Set. Go. Okay, so if you could only have three foods ever again, what would they be?


[00:24:30.110] - Bridgette Nobbe

Bananas. Peanut butter for sure. I eat a lot of peanut butter. Probably dark chocolate. Banana, peanut butter, and dark chocolate. Just a meal. Those three together. 


[00:24:41.280] - Kayla

I love it Bridgette. Michaela?


[00:24:44.240] - Michaela Davenport

How about more compartmentally, so hummus, tacos, and chocolate.


[00:24:50.670] - Ashley

I like it.


[00:24:52.220] - Kayla

That's great. You know, you got a little bit of everything there. I like it. Second question. So breakfast or dinner? 


[00:24:58.520] - Bridgette Nobbe



[00:24:59.030] - Michaela Davenport

I'm breakfast for sure. I could eat a fried egg on top of anything.


[00:25:03.260] - Kayla



[00:25:03.850] - Bridgette Nobbe

That's hard, but I really like breakfast for dinner. But I'm not eating in the morning type of individual. So it's not that I dislike breakfast food, but I don't eat before like eleven in general. And so if I could have my like eggs and waffles for dinner, I'm good with that. 


[00:25:20.910] - Kayla

True, great points. All great points. Next question. Crunchy tacos or soft tacos?


[00:25:26.060] - Bridgette Nobbe



[00:25:26.760] - Michaela Davenport

Soft all the way. And I'll offer a controversial opinion, I think corn tortillas over flour. 


[00:25:32.320] - Kayla

Oh, really?


[00:25:33.530] - Bridgette Nobbe

Listen, I only say corn if they're like fresh, like fresh Seis Kitchen corn tortillas are fantastic. But the ones you buy at the grocery store, I'm like ehhh. 


[00:25:45.050] - Ashley

Well so you have to heat those up, like they're much better if you like toast them, because yeah a cold corn tortilla or even like...


[00:25:53.330] - Bridgette Nobbe

Well then they just fall apart. Yeah.


[00:25:54.820] - Ashley

Yeah they just fall apart. Like a little grill on them goes a long way.


[00:26:01.140] - Kayla

Yeah. True. And last question, if you could have dinner with any three people, they can be dead or alive, who would they be?


[00:26:08.750] - Bridgette Nobbe

I always answer this one kind of weird. I just like would love to know more of my family history. And so my three people would probably be like three of my ancestors who maybe immigrated here, I think would have been a really interesting thing. So maybe like my dad, my grandpa who passed away when I was very young, and maybe his dad that would be an interesting thing to learn more about that side of family history. I would want those three.


[00:26:34.280] - Kayla

Awesome. Yeah. 


[00:26:36.040] - Michaela Davenport

That was so deep and wonderful Bridget.


[00:26:39.230] - Bridgette Nobbe

That's what I always answer. No, I'm always like, oh, my ancestors. Because I really don't know much about them.


[00:26:46.030] - Michaela Davenport

My answer is not that deep. It's just three people who I really love and admire. So I would say Michelle Obama, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and also Lin-Manuel Miranda, I think would be my optimal dinner. 


[00:27:03.170] - Kayla

Those are awesome, love it, love the answers ladies. Nice job, nice job.


[00:27:07.980] - Ashley

Well, thank you. Thank you, ladies, for spending some time with us today. We really appreciate it.


[00:27:12.630] - Bridgette Nobbe

Not a problem. 


[00:27:13.190] - Michaela Davenport

Thank you for having us. 


[00:27:18.220] - Ashley

All right. That's our show. Thank you so much for listening. Please share with your friends and connect with us on all of our Campus Health social channels. You can also email us at chs-nutritionnavigators@email.arizona.edu to submit your questions and comments about the show. We are so excited to be bringing you monthly content to spark curiosity and further empower you to feel your best. We are sponsored by Campus Health and our program in Health Promotion and Preventive Services. We want to thank Bridgette and Michaela so much for coming on the show today. They are from Campus Pantry and we really are happy that they were able to take the time and connect with us. We'd also like to thank our sound engineer, Brian Paradis, the coordinator of undergraduate recruitment, for helping us sound lovely.


[00:28:03.110] - Ashley

Until next time. Be well, Wildcats!