Brown-bagging it

College residency organizes local lunch handout

Butte College students, left to right: Chace Marlowe, Kindra Adcock and Tanner Van Housen hand out meals at City Plaza.

Butte College students, left to right: Chace Marlowe, Kindra Adcock and Tanner Van Housen hand out meals at City Plaza.

photo by tom gascoyne

Saturday afternoon (Feb. 28), about 20 college students strolled downtown from their residences in the Craig Student Living apartments and headed to City Plaza carrying brown paper bags.

Contrary to the typical stereotype many Chicoans may have of students, the bags were not hiding open bottles of beer but instead contained lunches meant for local homeless individuals and those struggling financially.

When the students got to the plaza they handed the bags to those sitting on park benches, stage steps or patches of grass.

The students, who’d handed out a number of lunches on their way to the plaza, were part of a group of 50 Craig Student Living residents who volunteered to put together and donate a portion of the 400 meals handed out that day to the local down-and-out folks across town as well as to social organizations that serve them, such as the Jesus Center.

Each of the students donated four meals that they’d paid for with their resident meal plans, making up 200 lunches of peanut butter and jelly or turkey and cheese sandwiches, bottled water, a piece of fruit, a bag of chips and a package of cookies. The dining services provider Sodexo donated the other 200 lunches.

The meal giveaway, called “Pay It Forward,” is part of the apartments’ Residence Life program and was put together by resident advisers Emanuel Hurtado, Corina Martinez, Rylee Newell and Yolanda Maldonado.

Kindra Adcock, the residence services director, said the Residence Life program “focuses on three core areas—social development, educational development and service initiatives.” The idea is to “develop, promote and implement community services opportunities” for the students in Craig Student Living, which includes attendees of both Chico State and Butte College.

“Residents are supported and challenged not only to live in, but also contribute to the greater good of their community,” Adcock said. “Through community service initiatives students also are made aware of the needs of real people, as well as the rewards and joys of responding to those needs.”

Indeed, the meal handout seemed to reach that goal.

Maleah Ikerd, a Butte College student from Ukiah, said she found out about the program from a posting on a wall at the student apartments.

“We put all of the lunches together and now we are just walking around town handing them out,” she said. “The people seem very grateful for this.”

She said was appreciative in return.

“It makes me feel really good. I like making people happy and helping them feel thankful for other people’s actions. It makes you feel good when people smile and say, ‘thank you.’”

Ikerd said that not all of the people she’d approached took the offering with open arms.

“It’s sad when people say ‘no’ just because they are shying away from people being generous,” she said. “If the giving happened more often, maybe they wouldn’t be scared to say ‘yeah, I’ll take it.’”

One of the lunch recipients sitting on a park bench said her name was Geri and described her living conditions as “cold and wet.”

“I thought it was a lovely treat,” she said of the lunch she was handed. “It was very nice. I wasn’t expecting it. [The students] were very polite and they just asked if we’d like something to eat and I said, ‘That’d be great.’”

Tanner Van Housen, who is also a Butte College student from Ukiah, said he’d received a lot of “thank yous” during the day as well.

“I’ve only seen one person say ‘no,’” he said. “They were kind of weirded out by it, which is sad to think about people who are not used to other people doing nice things.”

Van Housen questioned the criticism by some in the community who say handouts only attract more homeless people to Chico.

“I feel like giving them food,” he said. “They are human and they need to eat. It’s not like we are making them stay here. Maybe if you give them money and they go spend it on things they don’t need, that is one thing, but actually giving them food I think helps them a lot.”

He said they’d learned from one woman that there were a number of homeless folks hanging out by the local Safeway, which is where he and some of the other students were headed next.

“It makes me sleep better at night knowing these people have food,” he said. “I was never aware of how many there were and I still don’t know how many are unable to eat and are homeless.”

One reciepient in the park named Rick was a bit ambivalant in explaining his living conditions.

“I’m so-so,” he said. “I have stuggled, but I have had good times, too. I’m sitting here hungry and was thinking about going over to Jack in the Box to get me something to eat, but these kind people said, ‘You want a sack lunch?’ Not only do I get to eat, but I get to save a few dollars.”