UC Berkeley CALPIRG aims to address food insecurity with Zero Hunger campaign

Maya Valluru/Staff

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CALPIRG is planning a photo petition event to be held March 14, or Pi Day, as part of its Zero Hunger campaign, which aims to combat student food insecurity.

The UC Berkeley chapter of CALPIRG labels itself as a “student-directed public interest non-profit.” In addition to the Zero Hunger campaign, it is also running campaigns focused on conserving the bee population, registering students to vote, pushing for renewable energy on campus and achieving zero waste.

According to Zero Hunger campaign coordinator Mika Yoneda, CALPIRG has been working on issues regarding hunger and homelessness for more than 40 years and started Hunger and Homelessness week. The Zero Hunger campaign is a new addition to its effort this semester.

According to Yoneda, CALPIRG has focused on grassroots efforts, which include obtaining about 700 petitions and 120 personal letters from students addressed to Chancellor Carol Christ in support of the campaign.

“I delivered five letters every day to her office,” Yoneda said. “I think that since she made that commitment to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, she can definitely make a commitment to feeding her students.”

Darren Zook, a faculty member in the global studies and political science departments, commented on how the campus needs to be “proactive, not reactive” when addressing campus food insecurity.

CALPIRG is currently focusing on the Zero Hunger campaign because the topic of Pi Day has raised questions regarding issues of hunger that people might not have otherwise considered, according to Yoneda.

She added that rather than making the day about math and pie, CALPIRG wants to make it about awareness.

“I think it’s important to recognize that not all students have the luxury to eat pie or even to eat three meals a day,” Yoneda said.

In addition to raising student awareness about food insecurity with photo petitions, a photo collage from the event will be sent to Christ to further emphasize student support for the campaign.

According to a December 2017 report from the UC Global Food Initiative, 44 percent of undergraduates and 26 percent of graduate students across the UC system are food insecure.

“I think hunger on campus is an invisible issue, largely because we don’t associate hunger with a student population,” Zook said, also classifying food insecurity as an “underreported and underrecognized problem.”

There are currently 12,000 undergraduates and 2,700 graduate students who are food insecure at UC Berkeley, according to Yoneda who also pointed out that the definition of food insecurity is not always what people imagine it is.

Yoneda explained that the common misconception about food insecurity is that it is not just limited to the absence of meals — it also encompasses the lack of quality, nutritious meals.

Students are lacking in a lot of the nutrients they need to be successful at such a rigorous university,” Yoneda said. “It’s both quantity and quality of food we’re concerned about with this campaign.”

Yoneda also stressed that other campus organizations that address food insecurity, such as the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, are focused on more short-term emergency relief for students in food insecure situations. The Zero Hunger campaign, she said, is working toward more long-term solutions.

Contact Marlena Tavernier-Fine at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @MarlenaTF_DC.