COSTA MESA, Calif. (KABC) -- As the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis continue, more people are facing hunger and food insecurity, especially college students.
Each week, Vanguard University in Costa Mesa opens its community pantry to offer not only free food, but also hygiene items and other essentials.
"We were one of ten college food pantries in Orange County, but we're one of only three that has stayed opened the entire pandemic," said Amanda Lebrecht, associate dean of student success at Vanguard University.
The food pantry program called The Living Well Community Resource Center has been up and running for less than year.
"Literally, when they opened, I started coming with my mom," said Nahomi Moran, undergrad student at Vanguard University. "We needed it the most in the summer, once the whole virus started breaking with the whole quarantine," Moran told abc7.
Through survey research, the university discovered the hunger crisis and need for immediate help months before the pandemic hit.
"We analyzed the data that we collected and it spoke volumes," said Hien Park, sociology associate professor at Vanguard University. "We saw 63 percent of the students said true to six of the food insecurities questions. We just thought it was astonishing," Park explained.
"The day that they kind of sounded the alarm that they were going to do the shutdown, we had a line up around the building," said Lebrecht.
And more help is underway, university officials say plans are already in works for a career closet program where donated clothing will be accepted for students.
"To me, it's a blessing just to have this in the first place. It not only helps me, but other students as well," said Leslie Gonzalez, undergrad student at Vanguard University.
If you would like to learn more about getting free groceries, help volunteer or donate, here's direct link to The Living Well Community Resource Center at Vanguard University.
ABC7's Feed SoCal is sponsored by Mathis Bros.
"This year more than ever we're joining the efforts to make sure there's food on people's tables," said Rit Mathis, spokesperson with Mathis Brothers Furniture.
How you can help families in need, text: FEEDSC to 41444
For more information about student volunteer opportunities:
Vanguard University pantry program helps students, their families fight hunger during COVID-19
The Living Well Community Resource Center at Vanguard University addresses food insecurity to help students succeed.