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ASUCI Makes steps Towards a More Sustainable Future for Students

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by: Ryan Mikeala Nguyen

Graphic by: Alexis Cormier

Update 12/2/2019: This article has been updated to add the school year during which Annie Le and Cassius Rutherford served as ASUCI officials.

On June 6, 2019, ASUCI unanimously passed legislation B54-39, which allocates $400,000 of the student government reserve funds to the FRESH Basic Needs Hub. These funds will help expand the FRESH Basic Needs Hub as well as hire a case manager that will support individuals with food planning and security. It will also help provide more resources and sustainable food options for students struggling with the basic need for food. 

“ASUCI is proud to step while we wait for lawmakers to commit ongoing funding to address basic needs insecurity at the UC,” said Cassius Rutherford, 2018-2019 Chief of Staff for former ASUCI President Annie Le. “This legislation sends a clear message to elected officials, UC administrators, and fellow anteaters that this student government is extremely serious about addressing food and housing insecurity on our campus. This critical funding will expand the positive impact that is already made by the FRESH Basic Needs Hub, allowing a case manager to be hired and more students to be helped. ASUCI will continue to be a champion and an advocate for meeting the basic needs of all students at UC Irvine.”

According to the University of California Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) Data Tables, 2018, 27% of students at UCI have very low food security and 20% have low food security. Very low food security is characterized by disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake and low food security is characterized by reduced quality, variety or desirability of the diet. 

With the ASUCI Senate vowing to allocate $400,00 of its student government funds, the FRESH Basic Needs Hub will be taking a step towards bridging the gap of students and individuals that have low food security. Rutherford claimed that over 20,000 visits had been made to the FRESH Hub in the past year.. 

“When [the FRESH Hub] have food delivery day, there’ll be a huge line out into the parking lot of students who are there because they know that there is a delivery that is happening, which is amazing that the FRESH Hub is really building those relationships with students,” Rutherford said. “The issue is, students that come in later in the week don’t get quality food as well, so that’s kind of the inspiration for how this bill came about. We know that there is a huge need and we know that if the FRESH Hub has this kind of funding, then they can do more marketing and make sure every student on campus knows about them.”

This commitment comes after previous attempts to increase measures on combating food insecurity on campus. In Spring 2016, the Food Pantry Initiative was passed by ASUCI to expand food security efforts at UCI. The Food Pantry Initiative is a student fee referendum that allocates $3/quarter from undergraduate student fees. With this in effect, $150,000 will be provided by the end of 2026 to expand food security efforts. In addition, Zot Out Hunger was created after the 2016 UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) found that an average of 44% of UCI students experienced food insecurity. Zot Out Hunger acts as an initiative to end hunger on campus. Donations of guest meal swipes collected during Week 1 and 2 of each quarter at the Anteatery and Pippin Commons will be given to students who have applied for the Emergency Meal Swipes Program

“Since the beginning of our basic needs efforts on campus, ASUCI student leaders have played a major role in advocating and pushing our efforts forward,” said Andrea Gutierrez, Director of the FRESH Basic Needs Hub at UCI. “It was AS leaders, who campaigned for and passed the Food Pantry Referendum, which allowed us to expand our resources and build the FRESH Basic Needs Hub. It was also ASUCI leaders who advocated for and established the meal donation program — Zot Out Hungers — which allows us to collect meals and redistribute them to students in need. In continuing their legacy for championing basic needs efforts on campus, this legislation is a testament of the serious commitment from our student government towards the wellness and basic needs security of our campus community.”

The FRESH Basic Needs Hub is located at the end of Lot 5 in the Anteater Community Resource Center and is open Monday to Friday’s from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For summer hours, visit https://basicneeds.uci.edu