Ph.D. student Kathleen Luo picks out produce from the Fruit & Veggie Up! program.

Photo: Karen Higgins/UC Davis

One Meal at a Time

by | Jan 8, 2019 | Fall/Winter 2018-19, Food, On Campus

Ryan McClintick knows what it’s like to try to live off the $1 menu at a fast-food place — and learn at the same time. The UC Davis student didn’t feel well, found himself on academic probation and became socially isolated. He had to put his studies aside for a year to earn some money.

But now he’s helping meet the basic needs of his fellow students through a new campus center at the vanguard of how colleges and universities are addressing the food insecurity that affects more than one in three students nationwide.

McClintick, a senior, interns at Aggie Compass, a newly designed facility in the heart of the recently refurbished student union. “I like how it’s right here in the Memorial Union,” said the psychology major. “I think it will help destigmatize some of the issues. Hopefully, we can make a difference.”

Aggie Compass was born out of the UC Global Food Initiative, launched in 2014, to help provide solutions for food security, health and sustainability. Of some 8,600 UC Davis students who responded to the 2016 UC Undergraduate Experience Survey, 24 percent said they sometimes ran out of food before they had money to get more, and 9 percent said it happened often. Even more worried about facing that circumstance.

Opened in June and starting its first full academic quarter this fall, the center goes beyond the services of food pantries. A full-time representative helps students enroll in CalFresh, the benefit program known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Fresh produce, donated from the Student Farm on campus and local grocery stores, is available free of charge through the Fruit & Veggie Up! program. And the center’s cupboard and fridge keep other food on hand to help when the student government’s food pantry is closed.

An app launching later this year will let students know where food is available for free, and workshops will teach students how to grow their own produce on campus.

Aggie Compass has prioritized combating food insecurity, defined as the limited or uncertain ability to have nutritionally adequate and safe foods. But Director Leslie Kemp said the center also is developing housing and mental-wellness resources. “We’re taking a holistic approach to provide on-the-spot assistance and to connect students with other campus resources, including a case manager, for longer-term support.”