Housebreaking is a “very tough time” for UC Irvine’s pantry

UC Irvine police said Tuesday that they are still working to identify a suspect in a Saturday morning break-in at a UCI food and toiletries pantry.

The incident at the Fresh Basic Needs Hub at 4079 Mesa Road happened around 7 a.m. when the pantry was closed, according to the UCI Police Department.

The pantry at the end of Lot 5 in the Anteater Community Resource Center provides emergency food and toiletries for UCI students in need.

According to the surveillance video, the burglar was a white man with a beard, black clothes and a black hat, the police said. He was 5 feet 8 to 6 feet tall and weighed 150 to 170 pounds, police said. He arrived on a brown and brown bicycle.

A picture from a surveillance camera shows a man who UC Irvine police believe may have broken into the University’s Fresh Basic Needs Hub on Saturday.

(UC Irvine Police Department)

Police said no arrests had been made by Tuesday afternoon. They said Saturday that it was not known how the burglar got into the pantry, and the department said Tuesday that it “currently has no additional information”.

No items have been reported missing, but Andrea Gutierrez, director of the Hub for New Basic Needs, said the break-in had lowered morale.

“We work so hard and we try so hard and then it happens to us. It was emotionally difficult to deal with,” Gutierrez said on Tuesday. “We’re safe. Nothing was stolen, but it’s about a feeling of invasion of privacy or the customer space … we’re trying to make it a positive space just by trying to deal with the situation. But … I think.” “We’re lucky that it’s nothing bigger than this or that major.”

“We have been challenged over the past few weeks to figure out how to continue serving our student body and resume food distribution through the middle of the year [coronavirus] Pandemic, ”she said. “We still work with student staff, but it was a very difficult time.”

Gutierrez said that most of the student staff have worked from home and those able and willing to go to the pantry to help with the food distribution. But the pantry has had to change what types of food it can offer and how it should be presented.

“We used to work with about 10 grocery stores in the area and pick up all the excess groceries, but all of this has been closed because some of the grocery stores don’t think it’s safe for us to carry on, others just have nothing to offer “, she said. “Unfortunately for us – we’ve always worked very hard to offer fresh, healthy food.”

With the decline in food available, the pantry has shifted to non-perishable items as they are easier to source and give staff more time to pack.

Before the pandemic, people could go inside and choose which foods to take with them. Now they are given prepackaged cardboard boxes to maintain social distance.

“We are determined to continue business as usual,” said Gutierrez.

Anyone with information about the break-in is asked to call the UCI Police Department at (949) 824-5223.

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