Basic needs center in newly-expanded MU
Aggie Compass, a UC Davis Basic Needs Center for students, will open later this spring in the east wing of the Memorial Union. Aggie Compass will open up shop as a center for students to obtain help concerning food, housing and other basic needs.
Aggie Compass will be an aggregation of several resources already on campus, including Fruit & Veggie Up!, The Pantry and Aggie Food Connection, as well as the incorporation of the federal program CalFresh.
“We can help more students if we bring these resources together, network them and create relationships between students and between the resources and make it available,” said Leslie Kemp, the director of Basic Needs Services and Aggie Compass. “The real value here is in creating a network and relationships around these resources and the students. It’s like the saying, the total is greater than the sum of the parts.”
Aggie Compass is run by the UC-wide Global Food Initiative which aims to promote food security, health, and sustainability on all 10 UC campuses.
“I believe we are the first UC to open a brick-and-mortar basic needs center, but we won’t be the last,” Kemp said. “Berkeley is hot on our tail and expects to open one this summer. Right now our focus is the global food initiative, all of our efforts are directly directed at food, but we will expand after this year to basic needs.”
The space that Aggie Compass will be occupying is part of the newly-expanded east wing of the MU. Former ASUCD president Josh Dalavai explained the delegation of this space.
“ASUCD was promised four retail locations, or retail properties if you will, for us to rent or delegate as we saw fit,” Dalavai said. “We decided these during my time as ASUCD president, and one of the spaces we decided upon was to allocate space to the Aggie Compass.”
Dalavai went on to explain the MOU, or written agreement, which was a collaboration between ASUCD, Leslie Kemp and the executive director of the Center of Student Affairs Assessment, Timo Rico.
“When my vice president Adilla Jamaludin and I were deciding how to allocate the space, a large emphasis and priority for us was to highlight the issues of food insecurity and disabilities justice,” Dalavai said. “The Aggie Compass wants to address issues of food insecurity by pointing students to different food resources on campus, and that’s why we entered a partnership with them.”
The center in the MU will be a community-oriented hub where students can pick up food and supplies as well as seek help from student interns and volunteers.
“The real compass team is all student interns,” Kemp said. “It’s exciting because this group of students will be the founding staff of the center and it’s really up to them to set the tone for the space. Setting the strategy for how we are going to reach out to students, how we are going to make the space work and how are we going to be effective in helping students.”
Kemp strives for the center to be a collaborative process with her staff, allowing students to pick their own roles and projects. The objective of the center is to create a supportive community with the goal of students helping students get the help and resources they need.
“Our priority is feeding students today, and sometimes there are policies in place that would make that difficult, so I’ve talk to the staff about how this can be frustrating,” Kemp said. “My role is to help navigate some of the business professional aspects and navigate some of the relationships with admin, but this is really about the students and the students taking ownership of the space.”
In addition to the student staff, The Aggie Compass will provide a desk for Yolo County’s CalFresh Public Assistance Specialist Maxwell Vaca.
“I work for Yolo County and I come to campus as much as possible,” Vaca said. “Right now I’m here four days a week at various locations to assist individuals, specifically students, helping them apply and making the daunting process a little simpler.”
Vaca explained that in Yolo county there are a lot of individuals eligible for CalFresh, mostly students, who are unaware of its benefits or how to apply.
“And that’s where I come in, to clear up any misconceptions they may have and to make the process easier for students,” Vaca said. “What they’re going to do is have a space for me so I can be on campus full time helping students with their applications and interviews to enroll in CalFresh.”
Aggie Compass will be hosting events during the Basic Needs Fair on May 14 on the MU patio. As its official brick-and-mortar opening, there will be a soft rollout on June 1 and a grand opening event on June 14.
Written by: Grace Simmons — firstname.lastname@example.org