UCLA students who do not have access to sufficient food resources can take dried food and canned goods from a recently reopened food closet on Hilgard Avenue.
Amir Hakimi and Meelod Daneshvar, UCLA alumni who graduated in 2015, spent last year restoring an unused Food Depot at the University Religious Conference, or URC. The food closet, located on the third floor of the URC, is intended for students who cannot afford to eat three meals per day, Hakimi said.
“Although there is a food closet in the Student Activities Center on campus, we saw the potential to reach out to students who commute or live off campus and need some extra help,” Hakimi said.
Hakimi said he hopes its location and access to parking will allow students who live off campus to take advantage of these resources.
Community members and the Swipe Out Hunger program donate food to the closet. Swipe Out Hunger, a student group that collects swipes from students, converts swipes into money used for purchasing food for the closet, said Tiana Austel, a member of the Swipe Out Hunger program and third-year communication studies student.
Daneshvar added the Food Depot is meant to be a safe space for students, where they can come without judgment.
“Food insecurity is a major issue on UC campuses, with one in four students skipping meals each day to save money,” said Daneshvar. “We’re all students struggling to balance the stress of school, so we felt it was important to help where we can to make for a better community overall.”
The Food Depot, which was created in 2012, gradually fell out of use because UCLA students were not involved in its management, Hakimi said.
“It became difficult for the people running it to market their resources and let students know this closet existed,” he added.
In April, the pair also launched the Career Closet, located in the URC, which provides students with gently used business attire they can wear to work or interviews. He added they established the programs so students could focus on their studies rather than worrying about clothing, or where their next meal will come from.
Members of the URC include religious institutions and community service organizations aimed at helping UCLA students and encouraging involvement in the community, according to the URC website.
Janet Doak, president of the URC board of directors, said she thinks the newly remodeled food closet will make a great addition to the URC and is looking forward to working with Hakimi and Daneshvar.
“The mission of the URC is to find programs for students that work to help other students, and this seems to be an effective way to get students involved in helping one another by donating food,” Doak said.
To ensure the Food Depot’s future success, Hakimi said he and Daneshvar plan to publicize the food closet to make students aware of the resources available. The Food Depot also receives many anonymous donations from community members.
Daneshvar said he and Hakimi are training current students to take over the Food Depot. Hakimi added he hopes to receive more funding with which they can purchase healthier foods and a refrigerator.