Students learned about on-campus resources that address food insecurity at a town hall event Thursday.
The Undergraduate Students Association Council external vice president’s office held the Food Security Town Hall in Kerckhoff Grand Salon to inform students of resources such as the meal vouchers and Food Closet programs. Speakers at the town hall included representatives from campus organizations such as the Community Programs Office and the Economic Crisis Response Team.
External Vice President Chloe Pan said the town hall is part of a three-day event for the systemwide Sustain Our Students campaign. The University of California Student Association launched the SOS campaign last year to highlight many students’ lack of access to basic needs such as food and health care.
“We purposely invited (administrators) from different parts on campus, who are supposed to be responding to these issues to (hear) their thoughts and respond to students,” she added.
According to the UC Student Food Access and Security Study, 42 percent of UC students feel food insecure or worried about food running out.
Jo Huang, USAC EVP food security director, said the EVP office held the town hall to better connect students who feel food insecure with campus resources to help them.
“Although there are resources available on campus, there are a lot of students going hungry everyday,” Huang said.
Serifa Dela Cruz, care manager for the ECR Team, said the team is composed of members from various campus entities including UCLA Housing and CPO, that help students experiencing financial hardships, such as not being able to pay their rent.
Students can reach out to the ECR Team through email or phone about their emergency situations or needs, Cruz said. The team then assesses the students’ needs and responds with a supportive plan to manage their financial crisis.
“We don’t provide alternatives to resources that are already available, such as financial aid,” she said. “Because we have limited support we can offer, we want to make sure students are looking into all the other resources on campus, such as grants and federal loans.”
The ECR Team also provides students with meal vouchers, which students can apply for at the Bruin Resource Center. Students must meet several requirements to receive the vouchers, including living off campus and not have a meal plan.
The meal voucher program is supported by Swipe Out Hunger, a program that allows students living on the Hill to donate unused meal swipes from their meal plans at the end of the quarter.
Other food resources on campus include the CPO’s Food Closet and Grocery Shuttle, said Russell Castro, assistant to the CPO director, at Thursday’s event.
The CPO’s Food Closet program provides students with free food such as canned food and juice boxes. Castro said the CPO’s grocery shuttle runs every Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m.
“After reviewing surveys from students, it was clear that we needed to go on weekends, so I hope more people use it this quarter,” he said.
The town hall also included a session for students to ask questions and make recommendations to the speakers.
Gabriela Meza, a third-year political science and Chicana/o studies student, said she thinks the Swipe Out Hunger program should allow regular-meal-plan holders to donate swipes. Regular-meal-plan holders, unlike premier-meal-plan holders, cannot roll over leftover swipes.
Savannah Gardner, a UC Global Food Initiative Fellow, said many swipe donations come from regular-meal-plan holders, even though many students do not think regular-meal-plan holders can donate. Many of Swipe Out Hunger’s donations come from students donating one swipe from their meal plans per quarter, she added.
Other students said they were concerned the dining halls were producing excessive food waste.
Sarah Dundish, director of UCLA Housing, said dining halls prepare meals based on students’ consumption and said students should think about the portions they are taking.
“‘Slow down before you chow down’ is something we are really teaching the students,” she said. “We are really good at preparing food but we can’t really control how much students are putting on their plates, which is what accounts for most of the food waste.”
Castro said the campus has had many of these resources for a while, and encouraged students to take advantage of them and reach out to campus entities.