Pacific food pantry receives donation from Stockton Grocery Outlet
"When I learned about the great work the Pacific Food Pantry was doing for students during this difficult time, I wanted to help."
University of the Pacific’s food pantry, like so many food banks across the nation, was hit especially hard by COVID-19. Growing requests from students paired with dwindling supplies and donations left the pantry nearly depleted. By April, staff began distributing gift cards to students to help them procure their own groceries.
Now, the pantry is receiving much needed aid thanks to a team effort from Ismael Villalba, owner of Stockton’s Grocery Outlet store on Wilson Way, and one caring Pacific alumnus, MacGregor Read.
Read, the grandson of Grocery Outlet founder Jim Read and the company’s former Co-CEO, graduated from Pacific with a bachelor’s degree in English in 1993 and has been a featured speaker at university events.
“When I learned about the great work the Pacific Food Pantry was doing for students during this difficult time, I wanted to help,” said Read. And help he did.
He connected pantry staff with Villalba, who promptly selected the pantry as a recipient of the store’s Independence from Hunger campaign where Grocery Outlet stores across the nation raise funds for local food agencies during the month of July. Villalba’s store raised $2,129 for the pantry.
“We enjoy donating to local food banks because we want to make a positive impact in our Stockton community,” said Villalba. “We want to ensure that students have the essential foods they need so they can focus on learning and not worry about whether they have enough food on their tables.”
The gift couldn’t come at a better time. Since March, the pantry has received more than 200 requests for aid, and overall requests have increased by more than 70% between the 2019 and 2020 academic school year.
For some students, the pantry is a lifeline.
“I’ve never been in the position where I had to rely on others to make sure I was going to eat. I’m not sure where I would’ve turned to for food if it weren’t for the support, donations and resources that you all have given us,” said one student.
“We are incredibly excited and grateful for this gift from Grocery Outlet,” said Sustainability Director Jessica Bilecki, who oversees the Pacific Food Pantry. “We’ll now be able to stock the shelves with new food options for students and have a more resilient food supply in the months ahead.”
The gift will allow Bilecki to purchase items in bulk, including pantry essentials and toiletries like toothpaste and shampoo for students who are still living on campus or who live locally.
“There’s a lot of need in our communities right now,” said Read. “I’m proud that we were able to make this connection so that the pantry can restock on critical supplies and continue being a resource for students and their families.”