The Community Programs Office Food Closet was able to expand its food options last year after receiving additional funds from a student fee referendum.
The CPO used funding from the Social Justice Referendum of 2016 to create the boxed food program, which provides students with prepackaged food during the holiday season, to address food insecurity on campus. In addition, the food closet will expand to include more healthy food options and substantive meals in the upcoming year, CPO Director Antonio Sandoval said.
The referendum, which increased undergraduate student fees by $24.99 per quarter to fund a variety of retention and outreach programs, provides funding for the CPO Food Closet, Sandoval said. The boxed food program was one of the major allocations of the referendum funds last year.
“This past year the primary focus of the referendum funds was to support turkey day and winter break food box programs,” Sandoval said. “But overall, food availability (in the food closet) will increase with the new funds.”
The food closet, located in the first floor of the Student Activities Center, is a student-run food pantry that has provided free food for students since 2009. Before 2016, the food closet only received funds from donations and the University of California Office of the President’s two-year food security fund. Now it receives extra funds from the referendum.
Sandoval said the food closet is focusing on providing more portable, on-the-go food items by collaborating with community partners, including the Jane B. Semel Healthy Campus Initiative Community Garden.
The HCI and donors Jane and Terry Semel created the community garden, located at the top of the amphitheater at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center, to grow healthy food and promote well-being on campus.
Mark Biedlingmaier, a garden coordinator for the HCI and a fourth-year geography and environmental studies student, said he and his fellow gardeners donated a variety of produce to the food closet and hope CPO will continue to use the garden.
“My fellow gardeners and I have donated an ample supply of fresh veggies including, but not limited to beets, radishes and squash,” Biedlingmaier said. “Ideally I would like to see CPO apply for one of our 31 adoptable garden beds. This would solidify the relationship with our community gardens and the food pantry.”
Sandoval said the food closet will continue to collaborate with other campus groups to address food insecurity.
For example, the Food Waste Recovery Program, established by the Undergraduate Students Association Council Facilities Commission, began donating unsold pastries from campus coffee shops to the food closet in fall.
“With this project, we hoped to collaborate with other entities of campus focusing on the same fundamental student issues,” said David Jimenez, policy director for the USAC Facilities Commission and a third-year political science and sociology student.
Erik Chang, former project manager of the Food Waste Recovery Program and a civil and environmental engineering alumnus, said that the program received positive feedback from students and was able to give away all of the leftover pastries by the end of the day.
Sandoval added that the food closet plans to let more students know about its services by flyering at events such as new student orientations and the Enormous Activities Fair. He added the CPO will launch a website that provides information on all its food security efforts in fall.