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UCI’s FRESH Basic Needs Hub Continues To Serve Students Despite Recent Break-In

UCI’s FRESH Basic Needs Hub was broken into on Saturday, April 11. An email sent by UCIPD described the suspect as “a white male wearing all black clothes, a black hat and has a beard.” After patrolling the area, the suspect was not found. No person was harmed and all of the center’s valuables were accounted for.

Although many campus departments are currently operating remotely, the FRESH Basic Needs Hub, which is a center dedicated to ensuring all students have basic food and housing security, remains open and is deemed an “essential service,” according to Basic Needs Director Andrea Gutierrez.

The FRESH Basic Needs’ staff have made major adjustments to continue their work during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic..

“The most dramatic change for us was really when it comes to the pantry services we offer. We’ve been running a client-choice pantry. As some of the CDC and social distancing guidelines were coming out, it became evident for us that running a regular pantry or the way we used to run it was no longer safe,” Gutierrez said.

Changes include students no longer being able to physically browse for groceries or lounge in the center. Students now must pre-order pre-packaged food on odd weeks due to the FRESH Hub making a switch to nonperishable items. In addition, an appointment system was established to reduce lines and protect the safety of student visitors and the student-heavy staff.

“Even that decision for us was really hard because we’ve always nurtured a community-building space that’s not only just a pantry or a center, but a space where folks can warm up a meal, study or hang out and destress … but we knew it was about safety,” Gutierrez said.

Despite the changes, many FRESH programs continue in an online capacity. Applications for the Emergency Meal Swipe Program, CalFresh, a recently produced voucher program known as Farm-to-FRESH and emergency grants are available. 

“I am taken back by the amount of dedication the FRESH Team has to aid and help UCI students no matter where they are,” a UCI student, who requested to remain anonymous, said. “I don’t have enough words that can express my feeling of gratitude towards your commitment. Thank you for this and everything else you and your team does to help us.”

The FRESH Basic Needs Hub continues to remain open and assist UCI students for spring quarter 2020.

Allen Serrano is a Campus News Intern for the 2020 Spring Quarter. He can be reached at allenjs1@uci.edu