44 percent of UC undergraduates experience food insecurity, study shows
A recently published national survey conducted by the Wisconsin Harvesting Opportunities for Postsecondary Education Lab found that, of over 43,000 students surveyed from 66 institutions across 20 states, 36 percent of university students said they were food insecure at the time of the survey.
The U.S. Agricultural Department defines “food insecurity” as a reduction in the amount of food a person consumes or disrupted meal patterns due to limited resources. It is also defined as a reduced quality of or variety in one’s diet.
Food insecurity is extremely prevalent on UC campuses. About 44 percent of undergraduate students and 26 percent of graduate students “reported having experienced food insecurity,” according to the 2017 Global Food Initiative: Food and Housing Security at the University of California. Additionally, it outlines a plan of action, which includes “establishing a basic needs center” like The Pantry at UC Davis.
While the Editorial Board commends the necessary function The Pantry performs on campus, we recognize that it’s a temporary solution for a systematic problem. The Pantry has a limited supply of resources and must ration the number of items students can take, and other students might not even know about the purpose or location of The Pantry.
These issues in the UC system must be addressed with a multifaceted approach tackled at all angles by individuals in student government, university administrators and the UC Office of the President.
Addressing issues of food insecurity is one noteworthy platform of newly elected ASUCD President Michael Gofman and Vice President Shaniah Branson. They promoted the idea of a “Pantry On-Wheels,” which would supply on-campus centers with movable carts stocked with food items. We fully support this idea and believe Gofman and Branson should be held accountable for making this idea a reality.
Chancellor Gary May recently convened a task force on Student Food Security. All too often, administrators create committees that prove ineffective and irrelevant shortly after their publicized announcement. We urge the student body to also hold the chancellor accountable and maintain the university’s prioritization of food insecurity as a critical issue on campus.
Finally, the UC Office of the President can and should continue to address the issue of food insecurity in the UC system by funding resource centers, promoting programs such as CalFresh and expanding programs like Fruit & Veggie Up!, which distribute free fresh produce to students.
California has one of the world’s largest economies and is a lead producer of fruits and vegetables. It’s unacceptable that roughly a third of UC students don’t know where their next meal will come from or have to make the limited number of items they may acquire at The Pantry last for long periods of time. Food insecurity directly affects students’ health and well-being, and universities must address such issues if they are genuinely invested in the success of their students.
Written by: The Editorial Board