Last week, ASUCI organized Student Food Access and Insecurity Awareness Week, an effort to communicate what food insecurity means on campus and to highlight the need for a permanent food pantry.
According to a survey conducted during fall 2013, 48 percent of UCI students face food insecurity, which includes both those who can afford their next meal, even if it isn’t healthy, and those who may not know where their next meal will come from.
“They were hungry but didn’t eat because there wasn’t enough money for food,” said Jessica Figueroa, one the coordinators of the event.
Various on-campus events were held over the course of the week to engage students in the effort to heighten awareness about healthy alternatives, the effects of stress on diet and the overall impact of food insecurity on the campus.
“From all of the volunteering this week, I’ve learned just how meaningful of a resource the food pantry would be for our campus, and how much potential it has to positively impact many student’s lives,” said second-year Rafael Carrazco.
Support for the petition to install a food pantry drew nearly 1,000 signatures from undergraduates and faculty this week alone.
The Student Outreach and Retention (SOAR) Center would be the home to the new food pantry, which was installed last week. Its first food distribution was on Friday.
SOAR also partnered with Health Education peer educators for an event educating students to consciously read nutrition labels.
“If you can’t read the ingredients, you should probably stay away,” said Amelia Torres, who helped to present the “What’s In A Label” activity.
Another activity hosted by the peer educations, “Food in Stress” helped students navigate how to maintain healthy eating even through the stress of school.
On Wednesday, students visited the Arroyo Vista Garden to learn about how students can grow their own herbs and vegetables for an inexpensive way to stay healthy.
“I think it is important that students know that this is on campus, and to utilize the things we have on campus to help us eat healthy,” Karina Lopez said.
Student regent Sadia Saifuddin, whose work includes the establishment of Berkeley’s food pantry, came to speak about her experiences advocating for food justice.
Despite the momentum they gained, organizers know they have their work cut out for them going forward.
“Students are not voicing it,” said Figueroa of food insecurity. “Because it’s not something easy to voice.”
“It’s so surreal that it’s already done, but it’s exciting to keep working,” said Jennifer Lima, another organizer of the awareness week.
“It actually feels like we did something. It’s still a long way to go but a great kick start.”