Basic Needs Center’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week campaign to take place in November

Emma Drake/Staff

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After winning the Best Overall Awareness Week in the country in 2017, the UC Berkeley Basic Needs Center announced the 2019 campus Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week from Nov. 12-22.

Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is an effort to call attention to the 39% of campus undergraduates and 25% of campus graduate students who experience food insecurity, as well as the 10% of students who encounter homelessness, according to Community Programs Coordinator for the Basic Needs Center Sara Tsai.

“We host this campaign as a call-to-action for our community members; hunger and homelessness are impacting our fellow Bears every day, and we strive to spotlight these issues and the resources our village offer to help alleviate the stigma surrounding basic needs insecurity,” Tsai said in an email.

According to Tsai, the Basic Needs Center hopes that this upcoming week inspires the community to become more educated and active in basic needs volunteer work and promote the basic needs resources offered to students, including the UC Berkeley Food Pantry, CalFresh clinic and the Food Assistance Program.

Food pantry usage has increased tenfold over the past two to three years, according to Tsai. She added that the Basic Needs Center hopes to further expand its reach and impact through the Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week campaign.

“Awareness to us means understanding that hunger and homelessness should not be part of the UC Berkeley experience, and that there is no shame to need a helping hand, especially when you’re in a situation of instability and crisis,” Tsai said in an email.

In 2017, the Basic Needs Center won the Best Overall Awareness Week in the country because of its focus on uplifting intersections bridging “mental health and basic needs, food waste reduction and food security, social services and resource access,” according to Tsai. This year, the Basic Needs Center is working to expand programs and outreach strategies.

The Basic Needs Case Competition will be a highlight of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. Students have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and contribute solutions that the basic needs community can implement, according to Tsai. Teams are challenged to propose advantageous solutions to either the challenge of campus housing security or food distribution for the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

In 2017, winners proposed “engaging” solutions and worked with the Basic Needs Center and the UC Berkeley vice chancellor of equity and inclusion to carry out their ideas the following semester, according to Tsai.

Events during the campaign include a Food, Equity, Entrepreneurship and Development Berkeley and Basic Needs cook-off, a financial aid and basic needs workshop and a Division of Student Affairs community Thanksgiving dinner.

“Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week is the culmination of all the curriculum and partnership development we’ve done throughout the semester, and centers around uplifting the success of each of our internal and partner programs,” Tsai said in an email.

Contact Skylar Schoemig at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @sschoemig_dc.