For many of us, the increasing availability of COVID-19 vaccines is the light at the end of this very long pandemic tunnel. The entire world collectively struggled this year—but while a portion of our population was lucky enough to work remotely, a massive sector found themselves struggling to meet their basic needs. In our community at UC Santa Barbara, the switch to online learning left many gaps in accessibility for those who do not have adequate technological support at home, among a multitude of other complex challenges.
Though UC Santa Barbara already had programs in place to assist people in meeting their basic needs, they have been significantly more critical this past year. The Food Security and Basic Needs Advising Center, also called SNAC, is one of these pivotal programs that serve our community. SNAC is a central advising hub for basic needs resources on-campus and in the UCSB community. Students can meet with basic needs peer advocates via scheduled Zoom appointments, phone calls, or in person, to get help on a wide range of resources including but not limited to the Calfresh application process, housing and food resources, and technology support.
When the pandemic hit our world like a truck, SNAC took on a myriad of essential functions for our community. It became a central distribution hub for facemasks, toilet paper, hygiene products, and other necessary resources that keep our community safe. At the same time services such as the Snack Stations Program, the Halal and Kosher Grocery Program, and the Undocumented Student Services Grocery Voucher Program also found a home here. As a vital location for all these basic needs resources, SNAC acts as a physical space for these services.
Among all the other difficulties that our community is facing in light of the pandemic, one paramount deficit is access to technology. As much as technology was crucial before, it is even more so today, when our entire existence operates in the virtual space. SNAC and the Financial Crisis Response Team work diligently to ensure that students have access to laptop devices and consistent reliable internet so that they may continue to succeed academically. SNAC is currently providing technology support grants for $255 to students. These need-based grants help students address costs of hotspots ($100) and wifi coverage ($155) for a full academic year. Recipients are referred to the nonprofit organization Human IT for support. Additionally, eligible students in our community can request Google Chromebooks at no cost. To further support expansion efforts, SNAC has been able to issue donor-provided laptops to students majoring in social sciences with demonstrated financial needs. SNAC has also launched a short-term loaner laptop program for students in the immediate campus area who may have more short-term needs. Without these resources, technological barriers would be insurmountable obstacles in basic academic achievement for students. Any students with technology-related needs can complete a Google Form to be matched with resource(s) they are eligible for.
“The work of our student and professional staff at the Food Security and Basic Needs Advising Center is vital and more critical now than ever. Since the start of the pandemic we have seen the rise of financial hardships, an increased complexity of challenges and we have worked to assist folks with a wider range of intersectional issues. We have also worked diligently to address new challenges and gaps created by the pandemic circumstances. Keeping a dynamic and flexible approach has been essential to meeting this moment,” says Rebecca Segundo, Basic Needs and Rapid Rehousing Manager.
As our campus pushes onward into Spring quarter, marking a year from when we first transitioned to remote learning, the Food Security and Basic Needs Advising Center looks forward to continuing to serve students both virtually and in person. Students can live chat with a basic needs peer advocate by visiting food.ucsb.edu and clicking on the live chat feature in the bottom right hand corner. Additional information on hours of operation and live chat hours for Spring quarter can be found here.
Written by Connie Yoon