Courtesy of UCR

On Thursday, Nov. 16 and Friday, Nov. 17, the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) held Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, an initiative focusing on assisting students with struggles in food insecurity and homelessness.

The event began on Thursday when the UCR chapter of CALPIRG tabled at Student Life’s Resource Fair and held a loose change drive, in which people would donate the loose change in their pockets. In an email to The Highlander, CALPIRG’s Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week Coordinator Marina Joseph explained that the loose change drive was held in order to help fund their food basket event during the holiday season. The food basket event is an initiative in which CALPIRG provides individuals with food insecurity food baskets during the holiday season. On Friday, CALPIRG helped the R’Pantry shelve food items in preparation for the R’Pantry’s Open House event, held at 110 Costo Hall on Friday to give students the chance to familiarize themselves with the pantry.

ASPB took part in organizing Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. In an email interview, ASPB Director of Marketing Ivy Son explained that, “Every quarter, ASPB searches to bring awareness towards conflict that not only affects our campus, but our surrounding community. This quarter, our cause is Hunger and Homelessness Awareness and it consists of internal service learning projects, event incorporation, and organization partnerships.” ASPB organized an R’Pantry Wishlist drive during its “Justice League” film premiere last Friday, Nov. 16. In order to receive a ticket, students were required to bring a donation item from the R’Pantry wishlist to the event. ASPB also organized the Hunger and Homelessness Student Resource Fair on Nov. 16.

The WELL has also made contributions to the cause, as they held a “Wellness Wednesday” workshop, which Devon Sakamoto, Director of The WELL, explained in an email interview with the Highlander. “The WELL’s Wellness Wednesday workshop provided an overview of the CalFresh Program from Riverside County Department of Public Social Services representatives. They were also on hand earlier in the day, tabling at Scotty’s Birthday nooner and answering students’ questions about CalFresh and in The WELL on-hand to assist with CalFresh enrollment.”

Data suggests that hunger and homelessness are prevalent issues at UC Riverside. A recent survey conducted by CALPIRG found that 26.7 percent of all UC Riverside undergraduates reported skipping meals and eating smaller portions due to insufficient finances. According to the same study, 49.7 percent of all UC Riverside undergraduates felt concerned about potentially running out of food before they had the money to buy more. In an email interview with The Highlander, Marina Joseph claimed that R’Garden Director Fortino Morales, “confirmed that hunger and homelessness on University of California, Riverside’s campus is the ‘highest among the UC system.’” This is an issue that organizations such CALPIRG hope to help correct.  

Morales did not respond to comment before time of print.

When asked about whether the University is doing its part, Joseph said that the school “isn’t doing enough, administration wise … (it is) more student initiated.” It is an issue that initiatives such as the ones taken by R’Pantry and CALPIRG hope to reverse in order to make a significant impact on the hunger and homelessness at UC Riverside.