Programs and Partnerships to Combat Food Insecurity at UCR
Recognizing and taking seriously the challenge of food insecurity among UCR students -- UC Riverside Housing, Dining & Hospitality Services (HDHS) donated over $45,000 in food and supplies in the 2018 and 2019 pre-pandemic academic years to fight food insecurity at UCR. According to Feeding America, a dollar donated to a food pantry can help secure and distribute up to 12 pounds of food – the equivalent of 10 meals – meaning HDHS and our partners have helped provide close to 540,000 pounds of food and 450,000 meals to those impacted by food insecurity during this time.
Still, food insecurity continues to be far too common not just at UCR, but in the UC system and in higher education nationwide. Because this issue is significant and pervasive, the remedies must be innovative and engage key departments from across campus. HDHS is committed to using its knowledge, experience and resources to support a collaborative solution to food insecurity in our campus community.
What kind of assistance is given to students who are food insecure/lower income by dining services? What kinds of other programs are available for them to use on campus?
HDHS partners primarily with The Well (Student Health and Wellness Services) and Student Affairs Case Management campus departments in addressing food insecurity. HDHS has created the following support initiatives:
- We recently expanded our EBT/SNAP program to include both the Scotty’s HUB convenience store and SHOP at the Market at Glen Mor. A CalFresh representative tables on-site every two weeks to provide eligibility information to students and accept applications.
- We partner with Swipe Out Hunger, a registered student organization, to allow students on meals plans to donate swipes. The swipes are then monetized and used to purchase food and supplies for the R’ Pantry. Operated by The Well, the walk-in R’Pantry is for the benefit of any UCR student impacted by food insecurity. The HDHS / Swipe Out Hunger partnership adds approximately $15,000 a year in food and supplies to the R’Pantry.
- We launched the “I Want to Help a Hungry Student” program at Scotty’s HUB through which guests are invited to donate $.50 to help fight food insecurity with their purchase. One-hundred percent of the collected funds are turned into $5.00 meal cards for Case Management to provide to students impacted by food insecurity. In the last two years this has amounted to over $17,000 in meal cards.
- HDHS provides weekly surplus food donations to the Inland Harvest volunteer organization. Inland Harvest feeds those impacted by food insecurity in Riverside and also partners with St. George’s Episcopal Church on weekly dinners specifically for college students.
- HDHS recently vacated the third floor kitchen at the HUB and donated its kitchen equipment and supplies to The Well for the purpose of starting a Student Kitchen. Jointly managed by The Well / R’Pantry / Swipe Out Hunger, the kitchen can be used for community dinners, food distribution, and educational opportunities, once operationalized. HDHS will donate surplus food to the kitchen for the direct benefit of UCR students and we eagerly anticipate its launch.
- HDHS has partnered with grab-n-go vendor Fresh Grill & Brown Bag to donate surplus pre-packaged perishable foods weekly to the R’ Pantry. This year we have donated over $10,000 in food.
- As part of the grand openings in the HUB for the Habit Burger Grill and MOD Pizza, a portion of the proceeds were earmarked for the R’Pantry. Through these events, HDHS helped foster a donation of approximately $15,000 to help fight food insecurity.
Where does the overall money allocated to dining come from?
Dining is responsible for providing a high-quality foodservice experience to the 30,000-plus members of the UCR campus community each year. We do so without any allocations from UCR, the UC system, or the State of California. Revenues are earned through Residential meal plans and transactions occurring at our Campus Restaurants and Food Truck, Convenience Stores, and Hospitality Services events. Since we are self-funded, we must operate self-sustaining operations. We employ over 700 students each year and provide our union-represented career staff with full-time employment and benefits, which is not typical in the foodservice category. Taking into account the rising costs of labor and goods in what is already a low-margin business, we work diligently to be financially responsible while providing high-quality services to meet the expectations of campus. Each facet of our operations is analyzed regularly and we work closely with our vendors to obtain the best possible pricing on goods to ensure we are accountable stewards of our resources and can keep food affordable for our guests.
We urge each member of the campus community (both individuals and departments) to help us be part of the solution to food insecurity. Please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) with questions, ideas, and constructive critiques. Thank you!