From 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesday, March 1, on-campus student group “Feed the People” protested food insecurity at UC Riverside where 62 percent of students go hungry. The organization hosted two professors as well as student speakers to voice their opinions and personal experiences with food insecurity.
After reviewing the definition of food and housing insecurity with participants and speeches about food insecurity, two UCR professors spoke as well as a Q-and-A session. The Highlander sat down with Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies Tanya Rawal to speak with her about UCR’s food insecurity issues.
Rawal explained her view of how to solve food insecurity, explaining she thinks the R’Pantry and R’Garden should be incorporated into the “life of the university” suggesting the creation of an “R’Kitchen” where students can come and cook, because, in her view, cooking is one of the mainstays of a person’s life.
She explained how the integration of the R’Pantry and R’Garden into campus life can help the university sell their diversity platform. She went on to say that UCR needs to make the “platforms we have right now work for the students. The diversity platform works for the university to sell itself to kids across the country but we also need to make it work in a grassroots way for the students.” Rawal suggests encouraging Riverside’s small businesses to come on campus instead of corporate interests to further connect the Riverside community and providing incentives to use the SRC by going “five days a week and then you get a free meal.”
Rawal believes food insecurity can be solved through a Marxist approach. She especially emphasized Marx’s view toward the working class. “A lot of our students came from a working class background which means their parents didn’t grow up with a daily life where there was a fresh meal on the table everyday,” stated Rawal.
She further emphasized that UCR teach students from a working class background, a lifestyle that encourages intellectual growth such as cooking healthy food — a practice which she thinks “has been reserved for the bourgeois ideology.” Rawal added that a feminist view in conjunction with Marxism is necessary for “bringing value to domestic labor because food and cooking is seen as a feminine labor and that has to be shared with everyone.”
Oscar Corona, an undeclared second-year member of Feed the People, explained the purpose of the group. “Our main goal right now is to raise awareness and show people the resources we already have like the R’Garden and the R’Pantry and also get support to start a campaign to fix this problem,” shared Corona. “We believe the R’Pantry and the R’Garden, although they are helping a lot, is just barely scratching the surface.” He elaborated by saying that the campus needs to start discussing the issue since food insecurity is not a well-known topic and people who are food insecure “try to hide it or they don’t tell people because they think it’s just their problem when the fact is it’s a problem all over campus.” Corona said he feels that the campus administration knows food insecurity is an issue but is “not making much of an effort to fix it.”
One of the organizers, Crystal Brachetti, a third-year gender and sexuality major, described how her own struggle with food insecurity has encouraged her to publicly spread awareness. Brachetti acknowledged she never knew where the R’Garden and R’Pantry was even though “these resources are advertised to us as solutions but they’re not even accessible.” Brachetti expounded, stating, “There are faculty members that have wanted to get involved as well and there has been a disunion between students and faculty even though we know some faculty is aware of the issue.”
“Essentially, we are just trying to show administration that we’re aware that there are 62 percent of us that are hungry and we’re not OK with it,” Brachetti stated.