UCLA organizations co-hosted an event Monday to raise awareness about food-related injustices among students.
E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity held a free produce fair as part of Earth Month at UCLA, while the CalFresh Initiative enrolled students in CalFresh, a program that provides low-income individuals with need-based money for food, said Kristen Soares, co-chair of the event and second-year environmental science student.
Earth Month is a monthlong campaign to raise awareness about environmental injustice and ongoing climate change. The campaign will feature events throughout the month that focus on different aspects of climate change.
Soares said she and her co-chair Diana Nguyen wanted to host an event that focused on a specific problem caused by climate change rather than the problem in general.
Soares added she thinks the effects of environmental issues often disproportionately impact low-income communities.
“Normally Earth Month is a very nature-y, tree-hugging environmentalism,” Soares said. “Diana and I are trying to focus it on food injustice and environmental justice.”
Nguyen, a third-year political science student, said she hopes participants will become more aware of the resources provided by CalFresh.
“At the Free Produce Fair, we intentionally try to plan it with the CalFresh event,” Nguyen said.
Food Forward, an organization that sources leftover produce and donates them to communities in need, supplied the produce for the Free Produce Fair, said Chiara Phillips, a representative for Food Forward and a fourth-year geography/environmental studies student.
This year’s fair aimed to raise awareness about the issue of food injustice and the resources available to those facing difficulties affording food, Soares said.
Nguyen said 44% of undergraduate students experienced food insecurity.
Shelly Dieu, a CalFresh outreach coordinator and a fourth-year geography/environmental studies student, said she thinks food insecurity can hurt students’ abilities to focus on their academics.
“When you’re hungry, you can’t focus on school,” Dieu said.
Dieu said the CalFresh Initiative participated in the event to inform students about how to enroll in the program.
“(In order to go through) the process to get the debit card with up to $192, you have to be eligible first, so we educate students how to do that and how to apply,” Dieu said.
However, she said she doesn’t want to discourage students from applying even if they think they are ineligible.
“If students are ineligible, we have other resources to help them,” Dieu said.
Ty Pearson, a CalFresh staff member and third-year anthropology student, said CalFresh has allowed him to eat affordably.
Pearson also said he believes Monday’s event is important because it helps CalFresh enroll more students, which allows the initiative to make the most use of its funding. If the initiative does not use most of its funds, it may receive less funding in the future, Pearson said.
“Lots of people qualify, and if you qualify, you should make use of it because thousands of dollars go unused, which makes it easier for funding to be cut,” Pearson said.
Yasaman Taghi, a fourth-year neuroscience student, said she thought the event was very educational and that she got to learn a lot about CalFresh.
“Just walking by I think this is a really great program because I know a lot of students that struggle to go grocery shopping,” Taghi said. “For me, a lot of times it’s lack of time, and not wanting to buy a $15 meal.”
Andrew Howe, a neuroscience graduate student, said he understands that Los Angeles is an expensive city to live in.
“I like things like this,” Howe said. “Having events like this helps out students who can’t afford fresh produce.”
Soares said she hopes students walked away from the event with a greater awareness of programs that help people affected by food injustice.