UCSD administrators announced earlier this month that the university is creating a food pantry at the Old Student Center that will provide nonperishable, free food to all UCSD students on Oct. 2. Construction is expected to begin in early fall this year, enabling the food pantry to open by Winter Quarter 2015.
A.S. President Robby Boparai told the UCSD Guardian that the pantry will be open at least three days a week at varying hours each day in order to serve as many students as possible. The pantry will offer a variety of nonperishable foods such as canned goods and pasta.
After seeing the results of a recent survey, which indicated that 35 percent of UCSD students were skipping meals “somewhat often” and “often,” a group of UCSD entities collaborated with administrators to formulate the idea of the food pantry. Some of the key parties involved include then-interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Alan Houston, Muir Dean of Student Affairs Patty Mahaffey, the Financial Aid office and A.S. Council.
“As cost of living and college expenses increase, some students are faced with difficult decisions as to how their money will be allocated,” interim University Centers Director Sharon Van Bruggen said. “Establishing a food pantry on campus will provide needed relief to students who may not have nutritious and varied food options on a daily basis.”
Although the food pantry will be open to all students, A.S. Council has been charged with making sure that the service is meeting its target community. It will also trust students to take only as much as they need.
In terms of funding, the VCSA office originally provided $50,000 to the A.S. Council for initial construction costs, while the A.S. Council itself will cover the costs of employment and supplies of the food pantry for the duration of this school year. Despite its tight budget, the A.S. Council feels that solving student hunger is a priority.
“It’s not about saving money any more. This is about providing a resource,” Boparai said.
Boparai also said that the Council hopes that some of its campus partners will volunteer to join it and take on some of the expenses, either temporarily or permanently.
The A.S. Council expects to hire two student employees who will manage both the pantry and a group of volunteers. In addition to helping sustain the pantry, it sees this as a strong opportunity for those interested in being a part of the A.S. Council in the future.
In order to better gauge the needs of the student body, the A.S. Council will conduct anonymous surveys of those who visit the food pantry. It hopes that this will help identify the root cause of student hunger and consequently increase its chances of solving it in the long run.
“We want the food pantry to be a short-term fix for individuals who are experiencing food insecurity,” Boporai said. “But also to become a long-term fix for the campus as a whole by continuing to serve as a safety net for these individuals.”