The Next Chapter in Addressing Food Insecurity at UCSB
The cost to attend college is on the rise nationwide, and UC Santa Barbara is no different. Mike Miller, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Enrollment and Student Academic Support Services, recently estimated the current cost to be a UCSB student at an astonishing $250 per day ($37,000 per year). Students with limited financial resources face difficult choices, which may lead to fewer or less nutritious meals. In other words, they may experience food insecurity. The 2017 UC Global Food Initiative study reported that, of the UCSB students surveyed, 48% of the undergraduate students and 31% of the graduate students reported having experienced food insecurity in the last year. Limited or uncertain access to adequate food can significantly affect educational attainment, even while our campus was ranked #2 in the third annual New York Times College Access Index as the college/university doing the most for economic diversity and the American dream.
Despite the startling figures, there is good news! Our campus is working hard to address the challenges of food insecurity, and Housing, Dining & Auxiliary Enterprises (HDAE) has recently reinforced the effort with the introduction of The Miramar Food Pantry at Sierra Madre Villages. The Miramar Food Pantry opened its doors on October 1, 2018, but the movement started seven years ago with the creation of the Associated Students Food Bank, a student run initiative that now receives over 1,600 visits per week. Six years later, Residential & Community Living and the Family Student Housing Tenants’ Association opened the West Campus Family Student Housing Pantry. Then, during the 2017-2018 school year, Scott Gove, Complex Coordinator for Family Student Housing, began collaborating with the AS Food Bank to host 22 mobile distribution points for free food, with resources from HDAE. It wasn’t long before the number of visitors to the mobile food distributions demonstrated a need for an expanded pantry in the west campus area, and the Miramar Food Pantry idea was conceived as an evolution of the West Campus Family Student Housing Pantry. With the opening of the Tenaya Market & Eatery at San Joaquin Villages in the fall of 2017, the two hundred square foot Miramar Market space in Sierra Madre Villages was identified for repurposing, and proved a perfect fit for a community food pantry.
Fast forward to October 2018 and the newly opened Miramar Food Pantry, which is fully funded by HDAE and offers a large store space with cold storage bins, making it possible to offer fresh produce. Food selections focus on healthy options and visitors can expect a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, canned food items, pastas, cereals and more. The program is run by staff and student workers with set hours in the late afternoons/evening, when residents on the west side of campus return home, providing more accessibility. Even with limited advance marketing, the pantry welcomed an average of 240 visits per week in the first month, with 400 registered participants. Currently open on Mondays, Tuesdays,, and Thursdays during Fall Quarter, students must fill out a Self-Declaration of Income on their first visit to the pantry each academic year. Once registered for the year, they simply need to bring their school ID each time and may visit the pantry every day it is open.
The Miramar Food Pantry Grand Opening was celebrated on October 22, with guest speakers such as Associate Vice Chancellor for HDAE, Willie Brown, and Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Margaret Klawunn. Special recognition went to HDAE employees Jill Horst, Robbie Wright, Danielle Kemp, Jill Hurd and Scott Gove for their outstanding support and efforts to open the pantry this fall. The pantry joins other established HDAE food security-focused programs like “Swipes for Us” and the “Food Nutrition Basic Skills” demonstrations, which seek to show students how to use their pantry ingredients to create healthy meals. Clearly, this is an issue that HDAE employees care deeply about and will continue to address. In the words of Jill Horst, 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.”
By Eriko MacDonald