Raymond Carroll served for two years as the SBCC Food Pantry’s lead staff person, starting when the pantry first opened in the fall semester of 2017 at its current location on East Campus, in a colorful portable building with fruits and vegetables painted on the front.
“Working at the food pantry was one of the most fulfilling and gratifying things I’ve done in my life,” says Carroll. He sees his job as having been not only about making the pantry run smoothly, but making students and other visitors feel welcome. He worked to erase any stigma that might come along with getting free food, and to break down barriers that keep people from seeking help that allows them to thrive, on and off campus. “I wanted everyone who came to the pantry to feel comfortable, and know that we cared about them.”
Carroll always made a point of striking up conversations with visitors, asking them how they’re doing and what classes they were taking. “One guy showed up who hadn’t eaten in 4 to 5 days,” he recalls. “I know how hard things can get financially sometimes, as a father raising two teenagers by myself.” Working at the pantry made Carroll aware of how difficult it is to know what might be going on in people’s lives. “You can’t tell from appearances who needs help and who doesn’t. We saw so many different kinds of people, from all walks of life… a lot of SBCC students, and some faculty and staff.” He says the gratitude felt by everyone who visited the pantry was evident.
Sometimes professors would bring their students over to the pantry, after discovering they weren’t getting enough to eat. Carroll says some people brought over friends who were skeptical or hesitant to come on their own.
“A few times, we would have students who lived with several other people…and after getting rice, vegetables, and beans at the pantry, they realized they could go home and make dinner for the whole household!” Carroll felt extremely dedicated to his job at the pantry, which included training student workers to chat with visitors and make the pantry a welcoming place.
The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County supplies a lot of the food for the pantry, serving as an invaluable partner in addressing food insecurity on campus. Much of the produce at the pantry now also comes from the SBCC Permaculture garden on campus – during the 2018-2019 academic year, over a thousand pounds of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables from the garden were distributed through the pantry and the “food share” held monthly on West Campus.
Carroll has started the field work required to earn his associate degree at SBCC in Alcohol and Drug Counseling, and plans to transfer to a four-year university (UC Santa Barbara and UC Berkley are his top choices). Consequently, he doesn’t have enough time to continue working at the food pantry, but has great fondness and respect for those who are working there, and says “it will just keep getting better.”