Mobile Food Pantries Pop Up Across Campus

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to Be Recognized on Campus Nov. 11-15

A series of events will be held in recognition of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, part of a national advocacy initiative. Featured events include:

  • Nov. 11: Kickoff of Tritons Rock Hunger, a campus-wide food drive that benefits the Triton Food Pantry and the San Diego Food Bank. Yellow bins will be located near campus dining halls and college markets to collect non-perishable food items.
  • Nov. 12: CalFresh Mini-Clinic at the Women’s Center from 11:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., facilitated by the Basic Needs Hub CalFresh Outreach Team and County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency. Eligible students may qualify for up to $194 a month in grocery money.
  • Nov. 12: Photovoice Project from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. in the East Room at Mandeville Center, providing an exhibit of photos produced to raise awareness around the experience of college student food insecurity.
  • Nov. 13: Resource Fair from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on Library Walk, where the campus community can learn about the topics and resources aimed to support a basic needs secure campus environment.
  • Nov. 14: Triton Food Pantry Pop-Up and cooking demonstration. Students are invited to a special pop-up at The Village from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by a cooking demonstration with an HDH chef from 4-6 p.m. at The Hub.
  • Nov. 15: A Housing Fair will be held from 1-4 p.m. at the Bear Room in Price Center. Basic needs peer educators will lead workshops about off-campus living resources, temporary housing services and more.

Mobile food pantries have begun to pop up across UC San Diego, offering students a free selection of locally grown, organic produce and dry goods. The goal is to provide undergraduate and graduate students who may be experiencing food insecurity with nutritious sustenance each week. The mobile food pantries extend access to the resources available at UC San Diego’s Triton Food Pantry , the campus’s central location for all students to seek food support.

Mobile pantry manager Keliana Rios explained, “The anxiety of not knowing when you are going to eat or worrying about your budget makes you lose focus in class. We want to educate students about when to seek help—such as if you can only afford fast food—and know that there are so many resources available.”

According to the Wisconsin Hope Lab —which surveys basic needs security among college students nationally—one-quarter of university students in the U.S. reported that they skipped meals or reduced the size of their meals for financial reasons. In addition, the researchers found that 36% of university students nationally were housing insecure in the last year, which could include an inability to pay rent or having to move frequently.

UC San Diego has been growing a network of resources to help students who may be facing food or housing insecurity. The campus’s Basic Needs Initiative provides a multitude of avenues for students to access nutritious and culturally reflective food as well as housing stability resources and financial wellness education. It all starts with a visit to The Hub Basic Needs Center, where students can become connected to a basic needs peer educator, visit the Triton Food Pantry, attend a cooking demonstration, sign up for Calfresh food benefits, learn about emergency housing services and more.

“We partner with Student Affairs Case Management Services, which allows us to quickly provide a solution in a coordinated way across campus,” said Alicia Magallanes, basic needs coordinator. “It’s about guiding students to the right inroads rather than duplicating efforts or sending them to multiple offices.”

Students are helping other students, too. Through the Food Recovery Network —UC San Diego’s local chapter of a national student movement aimed to fight waste and feed people—recovered food is redistributed to people who need it most. Donations are received from campus dining halls and markets as well as nearby grocery stores and farmer’s markets. Since the program began in 2016, more than 36,000 pounds of food has been collected.

Senior Christy Schlutius began volunteering with the Food Recovery Network during her first quarter at UC San Diego. “From the start, it was so inspiring to leave a volunteer shift and know that my time equated to meals for people,” she said. “It is an amazing model for service and community impact because it pairs the problems of food waste and food insecurity in a way that helps solve them both.”

While a plethora of resources are available, sometimes the biggest obstacle is knowing when to reach out for help. For Anahi Ibarra, who grew up in South Central Los Angeles and experienced homelessness in high school, it wasn’t until she reached out that she began to realize she is not the only one going through these challenges. Fast forward three years, and she is now dedicating her time as one of the campus’s first basic needs peer educators who leads educational workshops and raises awareness about basic needs resources on campus to students, faculty and staff.

“We want students to know that we are here to support them and that they shouldn’t feel stigmatized in seeking out our resources,” said Ibarra.

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