Torrance High School Sophomore Supports El Camino College’s Warrior Pantry
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Torrance High School Sophomore Supports El Camino College’s Warrior Pantry

Supporting students through all aspects of their education is a priority at El Camino College. And with invaluable assistance from the community, the college’s Warrior Pantry is able to help the growing number of students facing food insecurity. 

Torrance High School sophomore honor student Natalia Brar recently learned about this need and decided to help the pantry by donating $1,000 from her nonprofit organization. 

“I really like the Warrior Pantry’s mission and what they are doing to help students who are hungry,” Natalia said. “This effort is close to my heart. My grandpa came to the U.S. when he was young to attend college, and he didn’t have very much money for food, so he bought just one meal a day. Fortunately, he finished his education and is now successful. Education is really important, and students shouldn’t have to worry about eating less so they can afford college.” 

With an increasing number of El Camino students reporting hardships due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for supplemental food provided by the Warrior Pantry continues to grow each week. In fact, the number of students stopping by the Warrior Cupboard, the food pantry’s temporary twice-weekly curbside distribution of groceries and toiletries, has more than doubled since this service was established on March 24. 

“As the need for Warrior Pantry services increases, so does the commitment and generosity of our community,” said El Camino College President Dena P. Maloney. “We are so grateful for Natalia’s efforts, which will go a long way to help our students succeed in their educational goals.” 

Natalia has spent her life assisting others. She has volunteered with service projects and with her mother’s Lomita-based community center, “Lemonade Stand,” for as long as she can remember. This year, she decided to take her efforts a step further and start her own nonprofit, Helpful Homeless Hands. In the past, she made sandwiches and blankets and handed them out to people on Skid Row in Los Angeles. Due to physical distancing and safer-at-home guidelines, she started sewing masks and offering them free of charge to those in need. Many people offered to pay for her homemade masks, and Natalia used proceeds to make the Warrior Pantry donation. 

When she sees a need in the community, Natalia tends to jump right in.

“Natalia is naturally a very giving person and it was great when she took the initiative with this project to help people,” said her mother, Ashima Brar. “I am on the Torrance High School PTA board, and we are aware of the needs of high school students, but as a community we also need to expand our thinking to include college students and other kids who might need help. Every night, new families need assistance. That’s why I’m grateful that information has been shared about this – to spread awareness. We can all help.” 

Natalia said that she heard about the Warrior Pantry through her mother’s friend, longtime Torrance volunteer Debbie Hays, who put a notice in the Old Town Neighborhood Association newsletter about a gift card program at the Red Car Brewery & Restaurant. Owners Bob and Laurie Brandt established its “Feed the Students” program after reading that 33% of El Camino students reported experiencing hunger but did not eat because they didn’t have enough money for food. The Brandts jumped into action and donated $25 restaurant gift cards to be given to El Camino students and invited patrons to do the same. The result exceeded their expectations and they managed to collect 100 gift cards for the Warrior Pantry in the past two months. 

“I could not stand the thought of a restaurant full of food and not being able to share it with someone who is hungry,” said Laurie Brandt, a longtime supporter of El Camino College. “Hunger is real, and it is right here in our own backyard. We were so grateful for the opportunity to assist the pantry and inspire others to donate. We look forward to partnering again with the Warrior Pantry!”  

The Warrior Pantry is open to all currently enrolled El Camino College students. The curbside Warrior Cupboard has served more than 725 students since its launch in March. New summer hours begin June 23; students can visit the pantry from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays in Parking Lot B, accessed from Manhattan Beach Boulevard. 

Many students face significant financial challenges and often find it difficult to support themselves while also covering college fees. Research shows that students without proper nutrition can have trouble focusing on class work and frequently worry about finding their next meal. Donations to the Warrior Pantry are accepted year-round and are essential to maintaining a well-stocked inventory of food and toiletries. 

“Natalia has gone above and beyond what a Good Samaritan might do,” said Kim Cameron, Warrior Pantry staff member. “She has been innovative and creative in her fundraising efforts. Every student who visits the Warrior Pantry will benefit from her charitable contribution.”  

At this time, only monetary donations from individual community members will be accepted and can be made via https://www.elcamino.edu/foundation/donate.aspx; choose “Warrior Pantry” under “Designation.” Community groups that wish to make a donation can contact: kicameron@elcamino.edu; monetary donations can be made through the El Camino College Foundation: https://www.elcamino.edu/foundation/donate.aspx. For additional information about the Warrior Pantry, view: http://www.elcamino.edu/student/studentservices/warriorpantry/

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Photos available online:
El Camino College Warrior Pantry staff member Kim Cameron (left) recently met with (from left) Torrance High School sophomore Natalia Brar, Foundation Executive Director Andrea Sala, and Director of Student Development Gregory Toya. Natalia donated $1,000 from her nonprofit organization to help support El Camino College students through the Warrior Pantry.
https://www.elcamino.edu/about/depts/publicrelations/photos/2020/warrior-pantry-001.jpg

Torrance High School sophomore Natalia Brar, pictured at left with her mother, Ashima Brar, recently donated $1,000 from her nonprofit organization to help support El Camino College students through the Warrior Pantry.
https://www.elcamino.edu/about/depts/publicrelations/photos/2020/warrior-pantry-002.jpg 

Torrance High School sophomore Natalia Brar recently donated $1,000 from her nonprofit organization to help support El Camino College students through the Warrior Pantry.
https://www.elcamino.edu/about/depts/publicrelations/photos/2020/warrior-pantry-003.jpg

June 18, 2020