The 2018-2019 UCLA Undergraduate Student Associated Council (USAC) unanimously passed a resolution at their April 23rd meeting that calls for the university to achieve zero student hunger by 2025. With this resolution, the USAC strongly encourages Chancellor Gene D. Block to pass a Zero Hunger Policy that would commit the campus to ending hunger by redirecting unused and underused resources to food insecure students.
The UC Global Food Initiative found that 44% of undergraduate students are experiencing food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined as limited access to food or disrupted eating patterns due to limited resources. Meanwhile the average college generates about 142 pounds of food waste per student each year.
The UCLA resolution states that food insecurity is also linked to poorer physical health and mental health issues including anxiety and depression, and that African American, Hispanic/Latino, LGBTQ and American Indian students are more likely to experience food insecurity. Thus, hunger on campus disproportionately affecting the academic performance of minority communities.
“No student should go hungry in our world of abundance. We’re literally throwing away the solution to hunger in our country,” said U.S PIRG Zero Hunger Campaign Associate Damiana Dendy. “It’s great to see UCLA stepping up as a leader when we see student hunger becoming an issue that affects every campus in the US.”
CALPIRG Students have been advocating to make UCLA a Zero Hunger campus over the course of this academic year, gaining support from the student body and organizational partnerships. One organization the UCLA CALPIRG chapter has partnered with is Swipe Out Hunger, a national nonprofit organization founded at UCLA that helps campuses set up meal swipe donation programs. They have collaborated on visibility events, homelessness awareness week, and an educational art gallery to explore hunger on campus, and they helped push for a Zero Hunger campus commitment.
The UCLA CALPIRG Zero Hunger campaign coordinator, Sithara Menon, has worked with several UCLA USAC members, including the President Claire Fieldman, Student Wellness Commissioner, George Faour, Community Service Commissioner, Bethanie Sonola, General Representative 1, Ayesha Haleem, and Internal Vice President, Robert Watson, as well as the UC Student Regent and Chair of the Regents Basic Needs Committee, Devon Graves. George Faour, Bethanie Sonola, and Ayesha Haleem are official sponsors for the zero hunger resolution. Claire Fieldman and Robert Watson have expressed support for the resolution. Support for the Zero Hunger Campaign across student government and student organizations has proved to make UCLA a leader for other campuses in fighting hunger.
“Students come to college to better their lives and their communities,” said Menon. “We can’t be expected to go to school, go to work, and succeed at the #1 public university in the nation if we don’t have the food we need to be healthy!”
U.S. PIRG’s Zero Hunger Campaign is recruiting campus administrations to make public commitments to achieving zero hunger, starting by getting otherwise wasted resources to students in need. Students and campus leaders committing to Zero Hunger will find out who on campus is hungry, find out where there are underutilized resources such as food or meal swipes, and finally create a comprehensive plan to get those resources to those who need them. With institutional support from administrators, student government bodies, and student organizations, the goal of Zero Hunger can be achieved.