The Associated Students Food Bank is currently in the process of expanding its facility to accommodate the growing number of students who seek its services.
Construction for the expansion of the food bank, which is located on the third floor of the UCen, began during Spring Break and will continue into Spring Quarter.
During construction, a temporary location will open up on the second floor of the UCen in the study space, across from Subway, where the old faculty lounge used to be. Days and hours of operation will remain the same.
Breanna Jones, A.S. Food Bank committee chair, said food bank organizers are expanding into half of the neighboring study space, which will serve as the new lobby.
Jones said they are removing the carpet in the current space to “get in line” with the university’s Environmental Health & Safety codes.
Food bank organizers are also renovating their current space and adding a new refrigerator to accommodate more produce.
The total cost of the expansion will be $46,134.98, but of the total cost, $11,259.98 is still needed.
Funding will come from the UCSB Food Security Task Force, the A.S. Environmental Affairs Board and the A.S. Food Bank budget. The remaining $11,259.98 that is still needed will come directly from A.S. funds, according to A.S. President Austin Hechler.
Aside from the additional A.S. funding, the Class of 2017 will be giving a donation to the A.S. food bank as its class gift, as the Nexus previously reported in October 2016.
“The senior class gift is focused on funding for more food in the future while the money that A.S. came up with is to help with the expansion cost,” said Hechler.
The A.S. Food Bank was founded in 2011 in response to rising tuition costs that left students in financial need.
The food bank currently receives approximately 500 visits a day and 1,200 visits a week.
On Mondays and Wednesdays, the food bank has fresh produce that it purchases from the Santa Barbara County Food Bank, but organizers mostly provide dry foods.
Jones said organizers hope to get fresh produce for all three days after the facility expansion. They plan to receive produce donations from Edible Campus, a student-run farm that is going to launch within the next year.
The expansion is happening at the same time that the UC Student Association picked student food and housing insecurities as their new initiative to focus on within the UC system. Hechler said 48 percent of students within the UCs identify as “food insecure.”
“I feel like our food bank is humbly tucked away in the UCen and no one really knows about it, but we serve about 1,200 students a week, and that’s unreal compared to others,” he said.
Hechler said he was the only one at the UC Council of Presidents who was able to say their campus had a successful food bank. He said UCSB is “way ahead” of other campuses in fighting student food insecurities.
Jones said that, aside from the food bank team, Hechler has “really pushed things forward to have things settled and made sure that the expansion happened.”
She also said the whole food bank team got together to fight for the expansion, and she hopes to see it completed before she graduates in June.
“Hopefully with the work that we’re doing, we can destigmatize the desire and need to get food aid when you need it,” Jones said.