By Tyler Thayer, Communications and Outreach Intern, UCSB Sustainability
It’s hard to learn when you’re hungry. Countless scientific studies support that statement, yet food insecurity is still a prominent crisis on college campuses. Even here at UC Santa Barbara, a school that’s ranked #2 for doing the most for economic diversity according to the New York Times College Access Index, students’ access to food is a huge issue. A survey from the 2017 Global Food Initiative report reported that 48% of UCSB undergraduate students and 31% of graduate students surveyed, reported having experienced food insecurity in the last year. This means that a substantial portion of the UCSB student community experience hunger or are choosing less nutritious meals due to a lack of income during their time here at UC Santa Barbara.
Luckily, our campus community is doing a tremendous amount of work to combat food insecurity, especially the students who in April of 2011 took action and created the first ever UCSB food pantry, a place we now know as the Associated Students Food Bank. This student run initiative took off, and now receives over 1,600 visits a week. In addition to this resource, Residential and Community Living and the Family Student Housing Tenants’ Union opened the West Campus Family Student Housing Food Pantry just last year.
Inspired by the work students were doing to address food insecurity on campus, UCSB Residential Dining within Housing, Dining and Auxiliary Enterprises (HDAE) decided to build upon this initiative with additional university resources. Scott Gove, the Complex Coordinator for Family Student Housing started by collaborating with the AS Food Bank to host 22 “pop-up shops” for free food distribution during the 2017-2018 school year. And after noticing that an average of 87 people were coming in need of groceries each time they did this, HDAE saw a need for the expansion of the food pantry on West Campus into a new larger and better equipped space.
Enter, the Miramar Food Pantry in the Sierra Madre Villages. This wonderful new addition is an evolution of the West Campus Family Student Housing Food Pantry. Due to the hardwork and incredible generosity of HDAE, who are fully funding this resource, the new food pantry opened on October 1st, 2018. The pantry also has cold storage so visitors of the pantry can now find the fresh produce needed for a full, healthy meal. Just in the first three weeks of operation, the Miramar Food Pantry served 810 people. Danielle Kemp, the Dietitian, Purchasing and Systems Manager for Residential Dining in HDAE, sees the new pantry as a great way to connect with even more members of the community. She says, “the most rewarding part of being involved in this project is “building relationships with individuals and families that come in regularly, and knowing we’re providing support for those in West Campus”.
Below are a few quick facts about how to utilize the pantry, but keep in mind that hours and stocked goods may shift based on student needs.
- It is located in Sierra Madre Villages, behind the administrative office
- It will stock a variety of fresh produce, canned items, pastas, and cereals
- It is open Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 4-7pm during Fall Quarter.
- Students can visit the pantry each day it’s open
But before you rush to the Miramar Food Pantry, there are still a few things you should know. First, you must bring your school ID everytime you want to visit the pantry to ensure that you are a registered graduate or undergraduate. You’ll also need to fill out a Self-Declaration of Income form when you first visit, but don’t worry, the students working will give you the form and help you fill it out. If the pantry hours don’t fit your schedule, please also see this site for a full list of local pantries: http://food.ucsb.edu/resources/food-nutrition/food-banks-pantries.
So what does this all mean for the future of food insecurity on our campus? In a nutshell, it means that the university and our fellow students will keep looking out for us. HDAE will continue to monitor the success of this new food pantry in addition to their other programs like Swipes for Us and Food Nutrition and Basic Skills demonstrations. Additionally, the UC Global Food Initiative will continue to spearhead discussion and research concerning food insecurity and food sustainability. So while food insecurity is a major issue on our campus, it’s a problem that our community is committed to resolving. And with that, we’ll leave you with some parting words from Jill Horst, the Executive Director of Campus Dining:
“Food plays such an important part in the daily lives of our students. Without a well balanced meal and proper nutrition it becomes increasingly challenging for a student to be successful in the classroom. And while food insecurity continues to become more prevalent on campuses across the country, we as a UCSB campus community are trying to ensure that no Gaucho student or Gaucho family will ever go hungry again”.