UC Irvine Addresses On Campus Food Insecurity and Off Campus Food Equity

Associated Students of UCI food security co-commissioners Erica Wong (left) and Karina Lopez (right) flank Orange County Food Bank Director Mark Lowry and UCI Student Outreach & Retention Center Director Graciela Fernandez in the fall of 2015.
Associated Students of UCI food security co-commissioners Erica Wong (left) and Karina Lopez (right) flank Orange County Food Bank Director Mark Lowry and UCI Student Outreach & Retention Center Director Graciela Fernandez in the fall of 2015.
Audrey Yap/UC Irvine

It always puzzled me during college how my roommates and I could never afford food but we always had beer.

I recall as a flat-broke senior repeatedly sneaking into the dining hall even though I had turned in my meal card my freshman year because the food was so disgusting.

I recall stuffing whole loaves of bread down my pants from the same dining hall so I could live off toast (and impress the ladies, awwww yeah).

I recall being so hungry that I survived for a week my last semester on crackers, Cheez Whiz and jalapenos stolen from a Los Angeles County Fair booth—and I still have the anal blowtorch scars to prove it!

So I can sympathize with UC Irvine students who these days have a name for what I referred to as poverty: "food insecurity issues."

It's such a problem now that the Associated Students of UCI Legislative Council overwhelmingly approved a referendum in February to expand an on-campus food pantry operated by the Student Outreach & Retention Center (SOAR). An undergraduate and graduate student would pay $3 each quarter starting in 2017 to fund the expansion, under The Food Pantry Initiative to be voted on this spring.

The food pantry first opened in October 2015, after UC President Janet Napolitano granted $75,000 to each UC campus for programs aimed at reducing food insecurity. The UCI Muslim Student Union kicked in $2,500.

The pantry is open weekdays from noon to 2 p.m., when students are allowed to take about three days’ worth of food for the week. They do not have to prove financial need, but their withdrawals are tracked via scan cards.

Food at a discount of 6 cents a pound is sold by the Orange County Food Bank to SOAR, whose Director Graciela Fernandez once boasted of filling the entire food closet for $30. Whole Foods' prices them ain't!

There are food pantries serving students on about 200 American college campuses.

Somewhat related, a Symposium on Food Equity, co-hosted by the UCI School of Law and UC Global Food Initiative, will be held Friday and Saturday at UCI. Speakers are scheduled to address a range of issues, including farm worker conditions and wages, environmental concerns and engaging and teaching youth about food justice. Click law.uci.edu/events/food-equity/2016/ for more details.


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