Pantry brings food to the table

LSU partnership with Second Harvest to help relieve the stress of food insecurity


Cara McClure, News Editior

Junior Vanessa Villatoro knows what it’s like to be hungry.

Living in a home without enough food in the cupboard, she worries about the pressures her father feels as her family’s principal breadwinner for their family of four and the struggles of other students in situations like hers.

Villatoro sees her parents carry the heavy weight of avoiding family hunger and wishes that there was a way to relieve their stress. She saw an opportunity for her contribution through involvement in the Branham Second Harvest Pantry, partnering with the LatinX Student Union in hopes to make a difference for her family and the Branham community.


“I tried to get as involved as much as I could and was the only student to attend the meeting. Personally, I’ve seen people around me struggle, even my parents. It helps a lot to have some food to come home to.” 


Knowing the pain and worry hunger brings, Villatoro hopes to help other students receive the aid they need in order to thrive at school.


“I feel proud that I’m able to contribute to helping other people out because I’ve struggled, and there’s been moments where I look at my parents and am like I wish I could help them someway and this is something I can help with.” 

Hungry students go to school every day with the hidden burden of food insecurity. Housing prices and the cost of living in the Bay Area are constantly rising, forcing some parents to choose between paying their rent and feeding their families. Second Harvest of Silicon Valley serves more than a quarter of a million people per month and battles hunger in schools. The organization supports 142 active pantries in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Second Harvest recently expanded its support to the Branham community with a new pantry that’s supported by the Branham Wellness Center and the LatinX Student Union. The charter of the new organization is to gather food from local sources and distribute it to families in need.

“We’re calling it a ‘just-in-time’ pantry,” said Social Worker Kevin Nguyen, the director of the Wellness Center. “Providing nutritious food” is “one less stressor for families and students to worry about,” he said.

The first task of the pantry is to get the word out. Nguyen has created flyers providing describing the pantry’s services, but he needs help posting them. He’s reached out to students and teachers for starters. Targets will include neighborhood bulletin boards: Starbucks, libraries, anyplace with foot traffic.

The pantry will be open every Wednesday after school in the parking lot for the Branham community to access. The only prerequisite to receive groceries will be the amount of people in each family, no questions asked.

“A lot of people you wouldn’t expect struggle with food insecurity,” Nguyen said. “The pantry is a service for students, teachers, community members—anyone who needs our services.

“Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help,” he said. “We have resources. Our mission is to help you connect with them.”

People battling the inflated prices in the Bay Area make up most of the recipients, according to Second Harvest financial coordinator Jeremy Loader. “The people we see most are teachers and people working one or two jobs. Mainly the middle class.”

Villatoro knows firsthand the worry food insecurity brings. As a result, she signed on to become the first student advocate for the new Branham pantry. The new pantry project, she said, will enable her to make a difference.

“I feel proud that I’m able to contribute to helping other people out,” she said. “Students can’t focus if they’re hungry. Meeting that need is something that we need to be doing.”