Providing food meets a basic human need and brings humanity together. COVID-19 has spurred UCLA to find a creative solution for doing both.
Cooking for the Campus and Community
The Semel Healthy Campus Initiative (HCI) Center at UCLA has launched a campaign to provide nutritious, sustainable meals for students and others facing food insecurity while preserving work and training opportunities for staff. UCLA Dining Services — rated number one by college students via Niche’s Best College Food in America ranking — will contribute in-kind labor and leverage relationships with vendors, while donations will cover the cost of food. The Semel HCI Center also will continue virtual cooking classes through its Teaching Kitchen, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to maintain a healthy lifestyle on a budget.
In addition to assisting undergraduate and graduate students, the effort will reach local residents struggling to get food during the pandemic. Working with Veterans Affairs and Venice Family Clinic, UCLA will offer thousands of meals for food-insecure veterans and families, including those who are homeless. Good nutrition is vital to good health, and UCLA is committed to helping people on and off campus secure it.
Longtime Need, Long-Term Commitment
Even before COVID-19, access to food was a critical concern for college students. At UCLA, a 2016 survey found that 35 percent of undergraduates experienced food insecurity, compared to 12.3 percent of households nationwide. The gap was even wider among racial and ethnic minorities: 53 percent of African-American and 50 percent of Hispanic undergraduates at UCLA suffered the same. Figuring out how to afford and prepare food often ends up being the lowest priority for students trying to balance demands on their time and budgets, but hunger can increase stress, interfere with concentration and sleep, and negatively affect health and academic outcomes.
From the 2012 launch of the Semel HCI Center to the 2019 opening of its Teaching Kitchen, donors have played an invaluable part in making UCLA a healthier community. Now these partnerships will enable UCLA to help students, veterans, and families overcome COVID-19 challenges and emerge even stronger.
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Published December 2020