Food insecurity continues to be a threat to students at UCR. In a survey done by the Basic Needs department on campus, more than 6 out of 10 students experience food insecurity. Three in 5 undergraduate students and 2 in 6 graduate students worry that their food will run out before they can afford more. Much worse, 1 in 5 undergraduate students and 1 in 6 graduate students have often skipped meals due to the inability to afford food. This issue cannot be ignored anymore ー administration at UCR must do more to address food insecurity and waste instead of burdening its students to fix this issue by themselves.
Aside from R’pantry and R’garden, UCR has not done nearly enough to take care of its starving students. UCR has only scratched the surface of solutions pertaining to this problem. If UCR’s faculty and upper administration take a proactive approach toward combating food insecurity and waste, the student body would witness unprecedented progress.
For starters, the luxury of eating at the dining halls must be extended to upperclassmen. Dining halls throw away an immense amount of food; without fail, the day’s end comes with a horrendous amount of food waste. Dining halls have a unique opportunity to collaborate with organizations and administrators in order to make sure that this obscene amount of waste does not continue. First-years with unlimited dining hall meal plans are able to eat three meals a day monthly for roughly $8 a day; while this price ranges per meal plan, upperclassmen not living on campus are saddled with incredibly high prices for one meal. UCR must provide cheaper vouchers for upperclassmen to take advantage of, as the current price to eat at the dining hall is inaccessible. Lowering the entrance fee could be an extremely helpful resource to starving upperclassmen. It shouldn’t be too difficult to implement — already, the dining halls have existing partnerships with organizations on campus in which they raffle free meal tickets. That plan should be broadened to include more of the student body.
On-campus eateries like the ones in the Highlander Union Building could also take a more proactive approach to solving food waste and insecurity issues. For example, Rosa’s Fresh Pizza located in Philadelphia offers a pay-it-forward initiative where individuals can buy meals for someone else. The consumer leaves a Post-it on the wall that someone that may not have enough for a full meal can use as payment. An initiative like this would greatly benefit students on campus trying to find affordable meals. This would also limit the amount of money students spend on food outside of school because their university would be able to provide for these basic needs. Small changes implemented by the university would make life exceptionally easier for all students.
UCR should also take initiative in creating new ways to combat food issues that include local restaurants. For instance, two international students from San Diego State University created an app that connects individuals to local restaurants who can offer their leftover food on the app at the end of the day for a fraction of the cost. This not only eliminates any potential food waste but also addresses food insecurity. If UCR were to develop such an app, it would help small businesses boost profits and also aid hungry students.
Unfortunately, a lot of restaurant owners believe in the common misconception that donating leftover food can increase their likelihood of being sued over food illnesses. However, the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act protects businesses from criminal liability in these cases. Thus, local Riverside restaurants should find no significant problems with working alongside the university by donating excess food to students or the surrounding community. And though business owners might worry about losing customers during normal hours due to people waiting to get cheaper food on the app later, restaurants can fully control whether or not they will be giving food away at any given time. With this solution, everyone wins, and most importantly, no one goes hungry.
While ideas such as food waste apps, dining hall vouchers and free meal Post-its are solutions to solving this problem, UCR must not burden its students with figuring this out on their own. All too often, universities depend on students to tackle these issues instead of taking responsibility for providing adequate aid for their students. Surely, the university and its large budget would be better equipped to implement these solutions than students are. Food insecurity should not be a part of the long list of worries a student has to face. At the very least, UCR must allocate the correct funding and resources to its students in order to alleviate the problem of food waste and insecurity.