For many college students, grades aren’t the only thing on their minds: they also have to worry about where they’ll get their next meal.
According to an online survey administered by the University of California (UC) in spring 2015, 19 percent of student respondents claimed to have “very low” food security and 23 percent claimed to have “low” food security.
That’s why, according to their mission statement, the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub, founded in 2015, “offers emergency food and toiletries, connects students to critical on and off-campus resources, and provides educational opportunities for students to take personal responsibility for their wellness and the well-being of their communities.”
The UC Irvine FRESH Basic Needs Hub was recently voted by employees of Anaplan, a financial software company, to be the #1 social responsibility cause for December 2018, for which the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub received a donation of $3,000.
Anaplan is a software company whose aim, according to their website, is to “connect communities of people with data to enhance decision-making in dynamic environments.” When Anaplan’s employees voted to donate to the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub and the students who rely on it, it was an example of the community outside UCI showing their support for the fight against food insecurity.
Anaplan’s donation harks back to the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub’s beginnings; it was only through a combination of multiple parties’ spirited efforts that the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub was originally founded.
In 2011, graduate students at UCI opened a small food pantry which they eventually found unsustainable and had to shut down. Then, in 2014, three students were awarded a fellowship by the University of California Global Food Initiative (GFI), described in the GFI’s overview as an “effort to develop, demonstrate and export solutions… for food security, health and sustainability.” The students worked with the Muslim Student Union (MSU), who had secured a grant of $2,500, focusing their combined efforts at the time toward raising awareness of student food insecurity.
Suddenly, UC President Janet Napolitano authorized $75,000 of funding to every UC campus to help them fight against food insecurity. After that, UCI’s student government, Associated Students UCI (ASUCI) formed the Food Security Commision, to “end hunger on campus.”
Finally in 2015, through the combined efforts of the three students who had won the GFI fellowship, the ASUCI Food Security Commission, the UCI Muslim Student Union, and UC funding, the SOAR Food Pantry was established, and in 2017 was renamed to the UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub.
“The FRESH Hub helps out our students immensely.” said Michael Dennin, UCI’s Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education. “Student food insecurity is a big problem not just at UCI, but at college campuses across the nation. We’re fortunate to have not just a team, but an entire community of people so dedicated to fighting it.”