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UC commits $3.3 million to improve student access to nutritious food

Guided by the findings of a survey conducted by UC ANR's Nutrition Policy Institute, UC President Janet Napolitano announced July 11 she would commit $3.3 million in new funding over the next two years to help UC students regularly access nutritious food. UC's survey findings and response were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Times, Los Angeles Times, KCBS and KPCC.

The online survey was administered to a randomly selected sample of students from all 10 UC campuses in spring 2015. It is part of the UC Global Food Initiative, which promotes a nutritious, sustainable food supply.

According to the NPI survey, 19 percent of the nearly 9,000 participating UC students indicated they had “very low” food security, which the USDA defines as experiencing reduced food intake at times due to limited resources. An additional 23 percent were characterized as having “low” food security, defined by the USDA as reduced quality, variety or desirability of diet, with little or no indication of reduced food intake.

Lorrene Ritchie
“I wasn't expecting that level of food insecurity in students,” said NPI director Lorrene Ritchie, who led the study, to Jessie Qian of the Daily Californian. “Adults who aren't informed would think students are just passive, spending their money on other things or just complaining … but it's really that big of a problem.”

According to the UC news release, UC has developed an action plan tailored to the needs of individual campuses while maximizing coordination among them. The plan includes:

  • Expanding food pantry storage and access
  • Increasing collaboration with state and county offices to register students for CalFresh, California's nutrition assistance program
  • Establishing and expanding awareness campaigns on student support services and food access
  • Expanding the existing Swipe Out Hunger programs, which allow university students to donate excess dollars on their meal plan to reduce hunger on campuses
  • Integrating food preparation and secure storage space into new student housing design and construction
  • Enhancing financial aid communications about housing and food costs

“Among students who reported food insecurity in the past year, we found that for 57 percent this was a new experience – not one they had faced as children,” says Ritchie. “This suggests that students who are on their own for the first time would benefit from financial literacy training and additional information about financial aid, nutrition assistance, and making healthy choices on a limited budget.”

The report Student Food Access and Security Study, authored by NPI research analyst Suzanna Martinez, UC Santa Barbara sustainability coordinator Katie Maynard and Ritchie, can be downloaded at http://npi.ucanr.edu.

Posted on Friday, July 15, 2016 at 7:22 PM

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