Campus programs capitalize on allocated funding to combat food insecurity
By Anush Khatri
June 25, 2018 12:04 a.m.
Food security programs at UCLA taught students how to cook and expanded student efforts to fight food insecurity on campus following a funding allocation from the University of California.
The University of California Office of the President allocated $151,000 to UCLA in 2016 to combat food insecurity over two years by funding food security programs, program infrastructure and jobs. Since then, UCLA has expanded existing food security programs to target food insecurity.
The UCLA Food Security Work Group gave money to the Healthy Campus Initiative and the Community Programs Office, which then directed the money to various campus entities on food security.
The Healthy Campus Initiative aims to educate UCLA students about different facets of wellness, including nutrition. The CPO is a department for student-run projects that address issues such as food insecurity.
The CPO used increased funding to expand programs such as the CPO Food Closet, the Grocery Shuttle, FITTED and the holiday food box program.
The food closet is a popular CPO resource that offers free food to students. Both individual groups and student organizations can donate to the food closet, which is located in the Bruin Resource Center.
Antonio Sandoval, the director of CPO, said in an email statement that a diverse group of students regularly use the CPO Food Closet, which he added is well-known on campus.
The CPO also partners with several groups on campus to combat food insecurity on campus, such as the 580 Cafe, the Healthy Campus Initiative and student groups such as Swipe Out Hunger.
The CPO also began operating the grocery shuttle last year, which drives students to ethnic grocery stores and discount stores outside of Westwood. The grocery shuttle program is currently in its pilot year, and student use of the shuttle has fluctuated, Sandoval said. He added CPO will evaluate shuttle services and hours over the summer to determine its best operating schedule going forward.
Teaching Kitchen Collaborative
The UCLA Teaching Kitchen Collaborative is part of a national network of teaching kitchens, which aim to teach medical students about nutrition through cooking lessons to help their future patients.
The Teaching Kitchen Collaborative at UCLA is organized through the university’s professional health schools, such as the David Geffen School of Medicine and Fielding School of Public Health. Lessons occur at Sur La Table, a Westwood store for cooking supplies.
Funding for the teaching kitchen has primarily come from the Healthy Campus Initiative, along with the Fielding and Geffen schools.
The professional health schools run the program for their students, who attend a three-class series that teaches them about different aspects of nutrition and how to cook for themselves and their future patients.
Janet Leader, associate director of nutrition programs in the Fielding School of Public Health, said the kitchens reinforce concepts through hands-on experimentation like a chemistry lab.
Leader also said studies have shown it is healthier and cheaper for people to cook their own food. She added that high living expenses, especially in an expensive area like Westwood, have increased food insecurity at UCLA.
Funds from CPO are being used to explore the possibility of converting a classroom on campus into a teaching kitchen. A teaching kitchen will be included in the new dining halls that are to be constructed on the Hill.
The 580 Cafe
The 580 Cafe received $63,000 to improve its infrastructure.
580 Cafe is a community space operating under the Wesley Foundation that provides food and study options for students from Monday to Friday. The cafe is open to all students, including those who do not live on campus or in Westwood.
Jeanne Roe Smith, executive director of 580 Cafe, said she thinks the UCOP funding has made it easier to provide resources to students, foot daily expenses and maintain equipment.
The cafe does not make its own food, instead collecting food from other sources and donors like the CPO Food Closet. The two resources differ, however, in that the cafe also provides students with a space to socialize and meet with other students.
Smith said while the Basic Needs Committee has expanded its advertising efforts in recent years, most customers hear about the cafe by word of mouth from regular visitors.
Smith added the 580 Cafe is an all-inclusive space for different types of students. The space is predominantly visited by the commuter, LGBTQ and transfer communities.
Audrie Francis, a 2018 UCLA graduate, said she enjoys studying at the cafe because of the people there.
“This is my favorite place to come to study. It’s a community and not just a food closet,” Francis said. “You come here to be with people.”
The CalFresh Initiative encourages students to apply for CalFresh, a program that offers need-based money for low-income individuals to buy food.
UCOP funds the initiative’s five workers and the food donations given out at CalFresh basic need resource fairs. The food security plan funding was also used to create more staff positions.
CalFresh coordinator Shelly Dieu, a rising fourth-year geography/environmental studies student, said the initiative aims to increase awareness of CalFresh and make the application process more friendly for students. Less than 1 percent of eligible UCLA students are enrolled in CalFresh, according to a 2016 UC Global Food Initiative report.
She added the initiative has improved outreach efforts by tabling at different health fairs and expanding its social media presence with graphics.
The CalFresh Initiative will expand its office hours with federal eligibility workers, during which students can receive personalized assistance for their CalFresh applications, from weekly to biweekly beginning fall quarter.
Dieu said CalFresh services do not end when students leave UCLA.
“CalFresh can follow you even after you graduate,” Dieu said. “It’s a resource of your social service programs.”