Months of construction has resulted in a significantly expanded Food Pantry operated by UCSB’s Associated Student Food Bank. Since 2011, the student-led organization has been working to provide nutritious food to UC Santa Barbara students who face financial hardships that make them food insecure.
When the program began, 35 students per week visited the lobby and pantry area of the Food Bank. But with an increase in awareness of the program and with more donations, the number has grown exponentially to 1,300 visitors per week. According to student coordinator Kathy Lopez, an increase in space was absolutely necessary because the old pantry could not handle the 40-60 people who were coming in at once. “Only three or four people could fit in the pantry itself at one time. You had to exit the same way you entered, which created crowded traffic flow,” said Lopez. “It often deterred people from staying and getting the resources they needed.” Now the Food Bank has a large lobby space, two full pantry rooms, and extra storage areas that create pathways toward the exit.
The AS Food Bank is working hard to address the food insecurity problem that is widespread across the UCs. According to a 2016 report by the National College Health Assessment Survey, which surveyed four UCs including UCSB, 42 percent of students stated that for financial reasons, they struggle to have regular access to food. By offering a Food Pantry that provides free, nutritious food to any student who self declares their income below $14,484, the UCSB AS Food Bank helps to alleviate some of the burden these students must endure as they attend university.
One of UCSB’s Food Bank priorities is to change the dialogue around the reasons people should utilize food bank resources: “We want to work to destigmatize what it means to come to the Food Bank and to have these types of connections,” Lopez emphasized. “We don’t want it to seem like it is just for a last resort or that it is something people should feel bad about.” To address this, the Food Bank Committee regularly staffs tables on-campus to draw attention to their programs. They also host four off-site mobile distribution centers at Cheadle Hall, Santa Ynez, Storke Family Housing, and West Campus to increase the accessibility for people who are not able to visit the on-campus Food Pantry regularly.
UCSB has served as a leader amongst the UCs in addressing food insecurity. It was the first school to put in place a full-time staff member at a UC pantry, and it elected to use $75,000 from UC President Napolitano toward a food, nutrition, and foundational skills pilot program. Even the senior class gift this year will be going toward supporting the AS Food Bank’s food pantry, informational workshops, and outreach efforts.
To find out how you can help, visit the Food Bank website.