Kenya Beckmann felt good as she turned into Parking Lot 1 at California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) and saw students placing donated food as well as Providence Health bags filled with COVID-19 protection supplies into the trunks of cars for their peers in need.
Beckmann, the regional chief philanthropy officer of Providence Health, came to CSUDH to volunteer during one of the Toro Food Pantry food distribution drive-throughs. Operated through the university’s Basic Needs Office, the pantry has been providing students food every other week since the beginning of the pandemic.
Providence, the largest health care provider in Southern California, has committed $50 million over the next five years to help reduce the impact of health disparities on communities of color. The health supplies they donated to CSUDH are part of that effort.
“This is where it’s happening,” Beckmann said she was thinking as she pulled up to the row of pop-up shelters from where the supplies were distributed. “This is where people are going to leave with a little comfort, knowing that they have enough food to get them through the next couple of days, and some supplies to protect them. I think this image will stay with me for a while.”
The Toro Food Pantry continues to distribute donated fresh food to students in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. The food includes prepackaged healthy meals from Everytable, which opened a takeout location in the Loker Student Union in 2019.
“We are thankful to Providence for their partnership and generosity to our campus community by helping our students and staff,” said David Gamboa, associate vice president for External Relations at CSUDH.
Gamboa added that students live in communities that have endured a disproportionate amount of suffering during the pandemic. “It is reassuring knowing that we have a partner in Providence that is as dedicated as we are to addressing this inequity in a tangible and immediate way,” he said.
This was the second time that Providence distributed its SOCAL Health Equity Kits on campus. Two weeks prior, students living in University Housing and CSUDH employees were given reusable bags with such safety items as hand sanitizers and masks, while larger kits included such items as pulse oximeters and digital thermometers will soon be distributed. Providence donated close to 1,500 kits in all to the university.
“We are a hospital system that considers itself a ministry, and we feel that we are called to be there for everyone, especially those who are vulnerable,” Beckmann explained. “Since last year, we have been seeing a rise in health disparities that are acute and disproportionately attacking communities of color, and other at-risk groups.”
Providence is also creating local health programs designed to address the needs of specific communities, such as the high rate of hypertension among Los Angeles’ black residents, and the need for better access to primary care in Asian and Latinx communities.
“We’re looking for partners like Cal State Dominguez Hills who want to lean into the success that they have had with their programs and research. These types of partnerships make a big difference,” Beckmann said.
She added that addressing health disparities is at the heart of what Providence is as an organization. “I’m grateful to Cal State Dominguez Hills for partnering with us, and everyone’s generosity and spirit. Like this university, we are about community, and we’re going to continue to look for other ways to make lives healthier, to reduce the impact of health disparities, and to be a good partner.”