Approximately half the students on this campus skip meals because they cannot afford food, according to an Aggie article that quoted Student Assistant to the Chancellor Justin Gold. In an effort to feed hungry students, ASUCD opened the doors to UC Davis’ very own food bank on Jan. 13. Any student can receive three items per day. Sounds great, right?
But it’s not the role of ASUCD to operate a food bank for students.
What kind of message does a food bank send about our university? It says that our students are not taken care of, and those in power do not know how to take care of the students properly. As a governing body, ASUCD should be helping students, but a food bank is not the right kind of assistance.
Food banks exist at other universities, even other UCs such as UCLA. Many of the other university food banks were founded by students who saw a need in their student body and chose to do something about it. However, the UCLA food bank is not supported by their student government. It is unclear whether some of the other universities’ food banks receive financial aid from their student government, but they do state they accept financial donations. The food bank at Michigan State University declares itself to be the “only known food bank run by students, for students.”
According to ASUCD, hunger is an issue on this campus, yet they based their idea off a survey that said 50 percent of students skip meals because they cannot afford food. What was this survey? Where did it come from? How many students were interviewed? None of this information was presented in the article when it is crucial to determining the validity of such a major claim.
The issue isn’t hunger. It’s not. The issue is unmet needs. The issue is not having enough money despite loans, grants and part-time jobs. The issue is distribution of wealth in a bankrupt state.
Yes, we’re in a recession. Yes, fees are up 30 percent. No, we don’t need a food bank. We don’t need ASUCD telling the student body what they need. That’s what a food bank is – telling someone they need this food here on these shelves. It’s impossible for a food bank to accommodate every dietary need and restriction, especially when it’s based off donations and non-perishables.
But don’t get me wrong. In no way am I saying that people deserve to go hungry. I am not saying that people should be denied food because they cannot afford it. Nor am I saying this food bank will go unused or unappreciated. I am also not saying that this will not help some students.
What I am saying is while I appreciate ASUCD for recognizing these are hard times for students, I think there are options other than food banks to help students. Food banks are cover-ups for larger issues. They do not solve problems; they merely ease the pain.
If ASUCD really wanted to take care of students, they would work out a subsidy program that is more accessible than that of government food stamps. If a system like food stamps was run through the school, while it would require students to provide proof of need, it would allow them more freedom. Any student who could qualify for government food stamps would find it difficult to sign up for the program, when the nearest location is in Woodland and you need an appointment a couple weeks in advance.
If ASUCD senators think they can provide loans for books, why can’t they create a food subsidy program? Or even some sort of emergency grant or loan system? The UC Davis Financial Aid Department offers short-term emergency loans for qualifying students – this is what we need more of.
It goes back to the old cliché: If you give a man a fish you feed him for a day, if you give a man a pole you feed him for life. By having a short-term emergency loan, students are empowered to make their own decisions.
Looking to the root of the problem is important. Is it hunger or is it something more?
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