Once a month at Las Positas College, student government officers and community volunteers come together to distribute free groceries as a part of the college’s program, The Market.
The program takes place in front of the 1600 building at Las Positas College (LPC) every third Tuesday of the month, from noon to 3 p.m. Volunteers distribute pre-packaged bags of groceries to patrons on a first-come, first-served basis. Attendees don’t have to fill out any forms or provide any proof of need; they just have to show up to receive food.
“Anyone is eligible to get food regardless of if they're an LPC student or not,” said Saba Salehifar, LPC’s student government president. “We want to provide food assistance to anyone who may be in need.”
Salehifar and her fellow student government officers are responsible for organizing the event each month. They order the food, recruit volunteers and are present during the events to ensure everything runs smoothly.
Over the past year, the student government organizers adapted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering contactless pick-up in which volunteers pre-bag items and load them directly into patrons’ trunks. According to the LPC website, all patrons must wear a mask when picking up their food as well.
The Market’s funding comes from Assembly Bill 453, better known as the Hunger Free Campus Bill. One of the key components of this bill requires community colleges to host regular food distributions or to establish an on-campus food pantry. Although the state funds the program, organizers of the monthly distribution rely on community support to keep the program running.
“We are always looking for volunteers, since there is a lot of work bagging all the produce and canned items,” said Salehifar. “It really is a team effort, and I am thankful for the students, LPC faculty, and community members who take the time to help.”
One such volunteer is Rifka Several who works for the Las Positas College Foundation and has a grandson who attends LPC. Several volunteers at The Market each month bagging items and organizing the packing stations.
“Between 120 and 170 people drive to Las Positas College or arrive by public transportation every month to get food,” she said. “This is a great example of Las Positas College students organizing and volunteering to make a difference in our community.”
According to Several, although there is a collection of food distribution services in the Tri-Valley, no single program can provide those with food scarcity with enough food for a month. That’s why it’s important, she said, for The Market to continue in conjunction with other programs and for community members to get the word out about The Market. This forum connects those experiencing food scarcity with students and community members ready and willing to serve their community.
“We are all here to help others, and if The Market has helped one family not have to worry about what food to put on the table or avoid a trip to the grocery store, we have provided a service to the community,” said Salehifar.