For the fourth time since pausing operations in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students gathered at the porch of the St. Michael’s University Church “Little House” to enjoy a free brunch from the Café Picasso food pantry on Oct. 17.
The Isla Vista program, supported by funding from St. Michael’s University Church, aims to bring awareness to local food insecurity and provide students in need with nutritional, warm and home-cooked meals, along with free pantry samples.
Third-year sociology major Adolfo Reyes interns at Café Picasso, where he helps prepare and cook the weekly meals.
“Especially here in I.V., there’s a lot of food insecurity that goes unseen, and it’s important to fight it,” Reyes said. “That’s what I enjoy. That’s what I get the gratitude from.”
The cafe served platters of chicken and potato taquitos with sides of black beans, pico de gallo, crema and salad. Coffee and juices were also available as part of the cafe’s regular offering.
The pantry inside the Little House — which is accessible during brunch hours — is stocked with dry goods, snacks, feminine hygiene products and toiletries. Café Picasso also distributed paper bags of beans, rice, macaroni, granola bars and snacks to their customers.
Café Picasso intern and third-year sociology and Chicanx studies double major Rosario Sosa Fuentes encouraged students to come not just for the food but also for the welcoming social atmosphere.
“It’s a great opportunity to eat for free and to meet other students, too. With COVID, it’s been really hard for people to interact with others and find friends, so I feel like this is a great place to start,” Sosa Fuentes said.
Sosa Fuentes said the cafe strives to prepare balanced meals while being inclusive of people’s dietary restrictions, usually offering vegetarian or vegan options. The cafe also seeks to design its menu based on patron recommendations and has so far felt encouraged to cook Hispanic foods, according to Sosa Fuentes.
As the school year progresses, Sosa Fuentes said the program hopes to increase brunch turnout as well as the program’s budget. Reyes added that they also want to improve community outreach to better focus their efforts on undocumented students.
“We have a focus on undocumented students, so we try to help them out as much as we can. They’re coming into a different space that might not be welcoming, so that’s important,” Reyes said.
Café Picasso hosts the free brunch every Sunday at 12:30 p.m. on 6586 Picasso Road. Students can dine-in at the outdoor seating or take meals to-go.