With inflation rising, SLCC’s Bruin Pantry sees more students and staff seeking its free goods

Pantry offers dry goods, canned foods, fresh produce and hygiene products at four locations.

This story is jointly published by nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune, in collaboration with Salt Lake Community College, to elevate diverse perspectives in local media through student journalism.

The Bruin Pantry at Salt Lake Community College — where essential items are available to students, faculty and staff for free — has recently seen greater demand, amid a nationwide rise in the cost of goods.

Diya Shah, coordinator for Bruin Pantries, said more people are visiting the pantry, which offers goods ranging from dry and canned foods to fresh fruit and hygiene products.

“Yes … inflation and rising cost of foods [is] impacting people going to the pantry,” Shah said. “My basic needs coordinator, myself and my student staff are all educating people to de-stigmatize using the food pantry and food insecurity in general. It is rewarding to see people come back and feel comfortable.”

According to the September 2022 Consumer Price Index, the cost of all items increased 8.2% over the last 12 months, and the cost of food was up 11.2% in the same period.

Shah said the pantry has been through difficult times before, and said she has even dipped into her own pockets to keep the pantry stocked with such items as sanitary pads and diapers. Earlier this year, Shah said, she purchased containers of baby formula for the pantry during the formula shortage.

The pantry has locations at four SLCC’s campuses: Taylorsville Redwood, South City, Jordan and the West Valley Center. Shah said the pantry diversifies its items to cater to wider populations.

“West Valley is a very unique location because it primarily serves our Latinx community,” Shah said. “So because of that we are very good about taking culturally relevant food there that the community can utilize.” The pantry, she added, also does its best to supply patrons with gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options.

Recognizing the impact of inflation on people’s cost of living, coupled with the pantry’s rising demand, Shah said she and her staff work to make patrons feel comfortable.

“I consider myself an introvert, but … connecting with people and talking to people … I think that’s really rewarding,” said Alex Bonifaz, a SLCC student who works at the pantry through the college’s internship program.

The majority of the pantry’s employees are students, Shah said, and she is mindful of their needs.

Students who do not work with the pantry through work study or the internship program are compensated with financial assistance in the form of tuition waivers. Bonifaz said he believes the recent 4% increase in tuition, along with the rise in the price of goods could hurt many students.

The pantry is always looking for help, Shah said, especially now that it is so busy. Those looking to help can stop by any of the pantry’s four locations during hours of operation or go online to submit a volunteer application.

The pantry also accepts donations during distribution hours. For more information about those hours, how to donate and currently requested items, visit the Thayne Center’s web page, slcc.edu/thaynecenter.

(Kasie Bussard | The Globe, SLCC) The Bruin mascot graces the entrance to the Bruin Pantry location at Salt Lake Community College's Taylorsville campus. The pantry provides goods, free of charge, to SLCC students and staff in need.

Patrick Kennedy wrote this story as a journalism student at Salt Lake Community College. It is published as part of a new collaborative including nonprofits Amplify Utah and The Salt Lake Tribune.