Food insecurity across the UC’s: How other campuses are fighting the problem

In Issue 16, the Highlander interviewed Grecia Marquez-Nieblas, coordinator of UC Riverside’s food pantry, R’Pantry, which has been working to combat food insecurity on campus for almost two years, to discuss hunger at UCR. However, food insecurity among college students is not just an issue isolated to UCR. According to the University of California’s “Student Food Access and Security Study,” food insecurity affects students of all backgrounds on all UC campuses. The Highlander reached out to and compiled data on the food pantries of five UC campuses to learn what they are doing to address this system-wide issue.

 

UC San Diego

Located at the Old Student Center, UC San Diego’s Triton Food Pantry opened in February 2015 with a $50,000 grant from UCSD’s Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Juan Gonzales. Conceived from a collaboration between the liberal arts John Muir College and the Associated Students Council, the pantry now serves more than 250 students a week. The pantry buys in bulk from the San Diego Food Bank and is supported by donations from students made through the UCSD chapter of Swipes for the Homeless. They plan on expanding the pantry to include refrigerated options as well as fresh produce. The Basic Needs Committee and the Triton Food Pantry also provide food demonstration sessions where students can learn how to cook, as well as CalFresh referral classes where students can register for the state program. The pantry is open five days a week; Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday and Thursdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

 

UC Irvine

In an exclusive interview with UCI’s Student Outreach and Retention Center’s (SOAR) Food Pantry coordinator Andrea Gutierrez, she explained the work they are doing to combat a possible 30 to 40 percent food insecurity rate. Since their opening on Oct. 5, 2015, SOAR has occupied a converted storage closet that Gutierrez describes as a “small (space) and it currently fits two bookshelves that make up the entirety of the pantry.” Gutierrez cited campus growth as a leading cause of the problems that administration experienced when trying to place the pantry. Gutierrez announced that the SOAR Food Pantry has recently been allocated a 2,300 sq. ft. space to move the pantry to, which will enable them to “have refrigerators, offer fresh produce, dairy and all of the perishable items we cannot currently offer” as well as office space and a place for cooking demonstrations. Their grand opening in the new space is scheduled for fall quarter of 2017. The SOAR pantry currently serves between 100 and 400 students weekly, offers a free farmer’s market with a local food bank and a free emergency meal swipe program that provides up to 10 meals for an affected student, which launched Monday, Feb. 13. The pantry is open three days a week; Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

 

UC Los Angeles

Founded in early 2009 through a collaborative effort between former President of the Muslim Student Association Abdallah Jadallah and former Director of the Community Programs Office Antonio Sandoval, the UCLA Food Closet conducts operations from a “small, unmarked storage closet in the Student Activities Center,” according to the UCLA student affairs website. It serves between 40 to 50 students weekly and was established in conjunction with the Economic Crisis Response Team to aid in finding emergency housing and food for students who were affected by the 2008 financial crisis. In order to prevent students from being stigmatized, visits are not monitored and the process is anonymous. The Food Closet offers non-perishable goods and is open five days a week, Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

 

UC Santa Barbara

The Associated Students (AS) Food Bank opened on April 19, 2011 after rapid use of the campus’ emergency financial assistance services — which provides emergency monetary assistance to undergraduate students — almost drove it to depletion. This led 2011-12 AS President Paul Monge-Rodriguez and the co-chair of the Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee Guadalupe Cruz to advocate for the creation of a food pantry. Among the services offered by the Food Bank is CalFresh assistance, instruction on life skills such as cooking and budget planning and a meal voucher program to allow students to eat in the dining halls when needed. The AS Food Bank is open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the University Center.

 

UC Berkeley

The UC Berkeley Food Pantry commenced operations in fall of 2013 to provide assistance for the one in five UC Berkeley students that have to forgo meals in order to save money according to the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey. It is located in the basement of the Martin Luther King Student Union building and allows students to visit the pantry twice a month, which in turn supplies them for eight to 10 days. To date, according to the pantry’s website, over 2,500 students have benefitted from the resource. The pantry hosts a variety of non-perishable food items including rice, spaghetti, canned foods, juice and soy milk. The pantry hosts a spring Harvest Day which allows students to come and pick fresh produce as well as learn about food insecurity. The second event the pantry holds is a CalFresh Clinic which has the Alameda County Community Food Bank come on campus and aid students in signing up for CalFresh. The pantry is open five days a week, Monday through Friday for varying hours.

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