ASUC president’s email highlights food security developments on campus

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The ASUC president sent out a campuswide email Saturday that described three relatively new programs that provide immediate assistance to students who might be facing food insecurity.

The next phase of combating food insecurity is for project leaders to approach campus administration and talk about a long-term model for alleviating this issue, according to Ruben Canedo, coordinating chair for the UC Berkeley Food Security Committee.

Currently, students who lack nutritious food or are food insecure can apply for the Food Assistance Program, which gives them meal points; go to the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, which allows students to take five nonperishable food items; or volunteer at monthly Harvest Days at the Gill Tract Community Farm and pick up fresh produce, according to Canedo.

Raffi Margossian, sophomore and chief of staff for the ASUC Office of the President, is excited about the effect the email has had.

“Where (the ASUC) sits is getting student engagement,” said Margossian. “(The ASUC) just sent out the mass email, and a lot of times students just skim over our emails. But this time, students actually took the time to read it.”

Margossian said he was excited to see students post on social media about the campus food security programs.

According to Canedo, food security became a topic of larger interest at UC Berkeley when, in 2010, the responses to a new question on the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey revealed that 21 percent of UC Berkeley students skip meals to save money “somewhat” to “very often.” The number rose to 23 percent in 2014.

Student Regent Sadia Saifuddin did some of the legwork for the campus Food Security Committee when she ran for an ASUC senator position on a platform of food insecurity, Canedo said.

After a year of work, Canedo and Saifuddin applied for a grant to fund the food pantry and the work-study that pays its employees. They joined with the administration and other actors to form the campus Food Security Committee in spring 2014.

The committee encompasses many members, including Cal Dining. Cal Dining is currently running a promotion where students can donate 20 meal plan points to the food bank, which will buy a bag of groceries.

Jocelyn Hsu, coordinator of community engagement and marketing at the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, has already seen the effect of that program — writing that the food pantry has seen more than 500 visits this semester and about 1,300 visits since it opened.

“Hunger is not a UC Berkeley problem — it is a national challenge, and we are blessed to have institutional administration and student partners saying that hunger is not acceptable at UC Berkeley,” Canedo said.

Contact Emily Pedersen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @epedersendc.

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the Gill Tract Community Farm as the Gill Tract farms.

A previous version of this article also implied that Jocelyn Hsu had seen the effect of the Food Assistance Program. In fact, she had seen the effect of the UC Berkeley Food Pantry.