Natalie Sekigawa is a nutrition student and the director of Pack Provisions, a food bank at the University of Nevada, Reno. For more information, visit tinyurl.com/jnxfjjs or drop by the pantry, located inside the Associated Students of the University of Nevada office on the third floor of the Joe Crowley Student Union.
What’s involved in your job?
I work a lot to establish a campus presence, since we are a new program. So I do a lot of tabling and outreach. If students ever want to meet with me, I can usually talk to them about the program or show them ways they can get involved, whether it’s donating, volunteering or actually accepting donations from the pantry. I also manage our volunteers. Once people do decide to volunteer, I give them tasks to keep the pantry running. I send data sheets to the Nevada food bank so we keep getting backed. I dispense WinCo gift cards and meal swipes [for UNR’s Downunder Café].
How many students do you serve?
Last semester I think we served 40 students, and, I think, this semester … I haven’t done the data sheet for this month, but last time I checked about 30 maybe.
Would you rather see more?
Yes, of course. That’s the challenge that I’m kind of facing right now is de-stigmatizing asking for help. I think that [in] Western society, people are just really individualized, and we’re not as collectivistic, so everyone just tries to fend for themselves.
Does that stigma lead to people seeming embarrassed when they come in?
Some people feel awkward or embarrassed coming into ASUN to get something when they can’t provide it for themselves. But statistics show that about 50 percent of people in [a] survey showed that they are food insecure, or experiencing some kind of food insecurity, whether that’s having to skip a meal, not having anything to eat for one or two days, wondering where their next meal is coming from, not eating something that’s nutritionally adequate, eating tons of Top Ramen or oatmeal for two days or something. So we’re not serving the population that this program is in place for, unfortunately.
Do you tend to see more repeat customers—or people who come in once after a job loss or emergency?
A little bit of both. Some people come in repeatedly. … We have other people that, like you said, just have a loss of job or are in between paychecks, are sick and need food because they can’t work. … This is kind of meant as a buffer system, though, so if people do need long-term assistance we’re trying to make a partnership with SNAP—which used to be known as “food stamps”—so it can serve students and they can get more assistance than we can possibly provide.
You have some new food-drive barrels. What’s happening with those? What are you hoping to see put in them?
I’m not completely sure where the food donation barrels will be at this time. We’re still in the process of programming. You should look for an awareness campaign in November. And things that we’d like to be donated to the pantry—any non-perishable or canned food item. We just ran out of peanut butter, if anyone wants to give us peanut butter. And also [canned] fruit is really hard to come by.