UCOP, Global Food Initiative work to combat student hunger at UC Davis
In Lower Freeborn, pamphlets line a wooden counter greeting students approaching the ASUCD Pantry. There are CalFresh leaflets on how to cook healthy meals, resources to find child care on campus and a list of ingredients available for the “Recipe of the Month.” For May, it’s gelatin with canned fruit.
The unit was created in 2011 as a food security program for undergraduate students, specifically for those who experience financial difficulties with obtaining food.
“It’s just to make sure that a person doesn’t have to skip a meal or ever go hungry while they’re getting an education,” said junior human development major Erika Hapa, the Pantry’s current director of external affairs and incoming unit director.
In addition to food, the student-run Pantry provides basic living necessities for all UC Davis students. Anyone can approach the counter during open hours and receive canned goods, toiletries, boxed cereal and pastas.
“[Students] just show their student ID card. We don’t record any information. It’s all anonymous,” Hapa said. “Each item we give out has a designated food point; we try to base it off how many servings you can get out of it. The only rule is that no one gets duplicates.”
Since the Pantry is an ASUCD program, many connections with on-campus resources are used for the benefit of the student community.
“We have partnerships with the Student Farm and CalFresh,” Hapa said. “Our main partnership would be with the Yolo County Food Bank. We’re trying to get resources, work with the financial aid office and make a website with all the resources we have on campus.”
The Pantry currently operates five days a week on an annual budget of $7,000 to $10,000. As of last July, with the introduction of the Global Food Initiative (GFI) by UC President Janet Napolitano, the unit’s budget is subject to expansion in the upcoming year.
Under this initiative, $75,000 will be allocated to UC Davis for campus food programs. The Pantry will receive a portion of this money in its effort to combat student hunger. The money will be shared with other on-campus programs, including CalFresh and the student farms.
This is a large change from the Pantry’s annual budget, and according to Hapa, steps that could never have been taken before now seem feasible. Hapa recalls difficulties in the unit’s past, but hopes the additional money will prevent such occurrences from repeating themselves.
“Right now we’re pretty good on food, but during fall quarter we had an emergency situation where we didn’t have much food on our shelves,” Hapa said.
Senior American studies major and current unit director Tara Storm said that this issue was met with a successful emergency food drive. With the money coming from the initiative, Storm said the unit plans to focus on marketing itself in order to best serve the student population in question.
“We’ve seen days where we have no food; we see days where we don’t see any students,” Storm said. “Really our main problem is making sure we’re stocked and making sure that students know about us.”
Both Hapa and Storm note how important the accessibility of nourishing foods is to all types of students on campus, including graduate students, and talked about the possibility of a graduate student-only Pantry on campus.
Storm has been involved in the initiative since its announcement and has collaborated with her fellow Pantry partners, both at Davis and across the University of California system. In regards to the plan for the grant, a proposal needs to be constructed for the entire UC Davis campus.
“Other schools receive a lot of funding but we don’t receive that much and we’re still operating five times a week. Other schools don’t necessarily do that,” Hapa said. “For other universities, they would need to figure out how to open up [a Pantry], and here we are: we already have a place.”
Storm was one of two UC Davis student representatives on the committee to lobby for funding from the initiative to the UC campuses, since the original program did not directly address student hunger. At the California Higher Education Food Summit, the GFI Subcommittee met to discuss local needs before extending to the global sphere.
“[The subcommittee] started when two students, one from [UC] Santa Cruz and one from [UC] Berkeley, felt uncomfortable that the GFI didn’t talk about student hunger, which is happening in our own backyard,” Storm said. “The [GFI] was for feeding the world — using sustainable agriculture to feed the world’s hungriest, which left out the issue of student hunger.”
Last Wednesday, the GFI’s Food Security Development Plan Working Group met for a second brainstorming session to discuss how the $75,000 stipend will be implemented into on-campus food security projects, including the Pantry. This committee has been meeting regularly to prepare a proposal for the UC Office of the President by June 19 in order to receive the funding.
“The money is [for] food security efforts,” Storm said. “So it can go partially to the Pantry, partially to the Student Health and Wellness Center…really it can go to any effort that [aims] to combat food insecurity for students.”
With her committee experience, Storm is confident in the Davis group’s knowledge of what the board would like to hear in the proposal.
When it comes to the logistics of how the initiative will impact ASUCD, Roman Rivilis, adopted ASUCD senator of the initiative, understands the needs of the Pantry and the students alike, and how the ASUCD might disperse the amount.
“[UCOP has] offered the funding [and] it is completely discretionary how we use it,” Rivilis said. “They have not offered direct consulting services regarding the [GFI], because mainly it’s for starting up other Pantries on other UC campuses.”
Rivilis keeps the Pantry’s current standing on campus in mind, as it holds a lot of potential.
“Because our Pantry is so advanced, it has opened up a lot of opportunity to explore other dimensions of food security beyond just the core component that is the Pantry, such as nutrition,” he said.
In regards to the partnerships across campus, Rivilis said he hopes the allocated $75,000 will be a funding distribution that allows for healthy relationships.
“Any UC systemwide campaign is always interesting to see what facets of an issue it may address, it allows us to see what collective solution can come across as the UC,” Rivilis said. “The fact that the [GFI] alone exists already represents a gravitational shift in the paradigm of the understanding of UCOP regarding the struggles of being a college student, [and] the financial hardship.”
Graphic by Jennifer Wu.