The power and value of community partnerships was on full display at the recent conclusion of a new initiative to combat hunger on San Diego’s local community college campuses.

The Pack the Pantry food drive was created by California Coast Credit Union in the fall of 2019 and brought together the credit union, San Diego Food Bank and all nine local community colleges: San Diego City, Mesa, Miramar, Grossmont, Cuyamaca, MiraCosta, Palomar, Southwestern Pack The Pantryand Continuing Education. Recent research reveals that approximately 50 percent of college students in San Diego face food insecurity, meaning they don’t have consistent, dependable access to food.

“Cal Coast was started by teachers in 1929, so we have a long history of supporting the education community, including K-12 schools, local community colleges and four-year universities,” Rene McKee, Cal Coast Senior Vice President of Community & Public Relations shared with GB Magazine. “As a result of our partnerships with the colleges, we learned of the food insufficiencies the students were experiencing. While virtually every campus established food pantries, they were having a tough time keeping them stocked. So we decided to try and help raise more food donations and get the campus pantries well stocked.”

The Pack the Pantry food drive ran from November 4 to November 18, 2019. Food donation bins were placed at all Cal Coast branches and on all local community college campuses. In addition, a virtual food drive website was set up, where anyone could easily make a financial donation online.

The results far exceeded what anyone could have hoped for. In the two short weeks of the campaign, enough food and financial donations were raised to provide over 50,000 meals to students on the local community college campuses.

“Cal Coast could not have done this alone,” said McKee. “Getting the support of the Food Bank was essential since they have the experience with food collection, sorting and distribution. And of course, we needed the support of the community colleges. They were very enthusiastic from the start.”

“It is a constant struggle to keep the food pantries fully stocked,” said Southwestern College Superintendent/President Dr. Kindred Murillo. “We recognize that it will take the entire community to help us in this fight against student hunger.”

Based on the success of the inaugural Pack the Pantry campaign, Cal Coast plans to make it an annual event and expand it to a one-month drive. “We are also open to adding other community and business partners who can help us take this effort to a new level of success,” said McKee. “Clearly on issues as complex as food insecurity, it takes a collaborative approach to have a lasting impact.”