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UCI Basic Needs Center Rebrands

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The UCI Basic Needs Center, previously known as the FRESH Basic Needs Hub, underwent a name and location change in January.

The Basic Needs Center was located in the trailers on Lot 5 by Mesa Court since 2017. However, in the past year, UCI gained funding to build more affordable housing units, which are set to be built near Lot 5 at the Basic Needs Center’s former location. Because of this, the Basic Needs Center has moved to a new location on campus, Student Services West.

Director of the Basic Needs Center Andrea Mora explained that the center’s new title was an important aspect of rebranding because the old name no longer encompassed their new services.

“While [the food pantry] was our beginning, we wanted to make sure that we are able to tell the full story of what we are doing for students, and how we are serving students. Although the pantry continues to be a highly utilized resource, we can do so much more,” Mora said. “We see the pantry as a wonderful resource, but it is a Band-Aid. We’re honest about that. The pantry could [solve] a quick need for food right now, but it’s not going to address long-term food security challenges, [and] it’s not going to solve a student’s entire financial challenges on its own.” 

Although the Basic Needs Center’s new location is less accessible by car, there are six stalls in Lot 6 for students to park in without a permit needed. The Basic Needs Center also has a designated stall in Lot 80 for students with disabilities. The center’s website has a new accommodation request form for students with access needs.

Mora described the move-in process as relatively smooth.

“Luckily, we were able to actually accomplish our timeline — moving in in December and opening in January, which had always been our goal. It happened. And there [are] still a couple things we’re waiting for. We’re waiting for patio furniture, for example — so we have a beautiful patio that we’re envisioning as a community space where students can hang out and study — but supply chain issues have delayed our furniture. But for the most part, the space is ready to serve students!” Mora said. 

Mora expressed that the ultimate goal of hers is to encourage students to utilize the resources provided at the Basic Needs Center.

“If you have a gap and are feeling the stretch and the stress of your finances, know that you deserve to be supported. This is why we exist on the campus — which is why I encourage students to push through that personal barrier or stigma or shame that makes asking for help [difficult],” Mora said. “A lot of us are alums and we have experience with this campus [and] with the difficulties that come in affording an education. We want to make sure that students know that they can reach out for support.”

Having been in the Lot 5 location for years, the Basic Needs Center staff at first expressed hesitation about what changes and challenges the new location might bring. However, moving to the new location has had its benefits and challenges.  

“I think when we first learned [about the move], our staff was really sad about the idea of exiting that space, because it had become a home for so many of us that were involved for so many years,” Mora said. 

Starting in 2015, the center was originally a small food pantry associated with and located at the SOAR Center. It became UCI’s first Basic Needs Hub in 2017 and moved to Lot 5, though it remained a hub rather than a center because, structurally, it was still under the SOAR Center.

“At the time we couldn’t have a center within a center because that could be confusing to students. Throughout the years, then we actually became detached, and we became our own space,” Mora said.

The Basic Needs Center plans to have a grand re-opening early this spring quarter, once the staff is comfortable with the new configuration and location. 

As of now, the soonest upcoming event will be a pop-up distribution of professional clothing on Feb. 27, where the Basic Needs Center will provide professional clothing items to students unable to afford them.

“We want to be able to support that need. It is going to be our first event, and our hope is that if there is good reception, and if we can continue to secure donations, this might be a quarterly event that we host,” Mora said. “In our mission we want students to really advocate for themselves.”

Sabrina Henderson is a Campus News Intern for the winter 2023 quarter. She can be reached at smhende1@uci.edu.