One of the hardest adjustments that come with moving away from home is the seemingly simple task of feeding yourself. It’s an expensive undertaking, especially now, given the current state of our economy. Getting the fresh produce and healthy foods one needs to fuel their body can be tough on a strict budget. Luckily, UC Santa Barbara and the surrounding community have a ton of resources for making sure you’re well fed, no matter what your bank account is looking like. Unfortunately, some of these resources don’t get the spotlight they deserve, so we’ve compiled this list in hopes to prepare students for any food insecurity the coming months and years might bring.
Associated Students Food Bank: Located by the print shop on the top floor of the UCen, the A.S. Food Bank is an essential resource for all UCSB students. The A.S. Food Bank offers a diverse selection of fresh produce, canned goods, snacks and other basics, such as toiletries. The best part? It’s entirely free! Students may come once each day to grab as much food as they want. There are limitations on some items, like bread and toiletries, but produce is unlimited! Just be mindful that others need to use the food bank as well. The registration process is simple and quick and can even be done right outside the door. Currently, they’re only open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, but once fall quarter begins, they’ll be open Monday through Friday. Sign up as soon as you can and start saving money on groceries!
UCSB Greenhouse Garden Project: Want to grow your own food but you live in a dorm or apartment without space to plant? Look no further than the Greenhouse Garden Project! Located on the west side of campus near Harder Stadium, the Greenhouse Garden Project offers students a place to grow their own produce. Simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to acquire a plot, and you can grow whatever (organic) produce you want — as long as you’re able to put in a few hours each quarter doing work maintaining the garden. I did this my freshman year and loved the opportunity!
Isla Vista Community Gardens & Sueño Orchard: There are a few places around Isla Vista where food is grown for the community. There are two community gardens: the Methodist Garden at the corner of Sueño Road and Camino Del Sur which, among a ton of other produce, has a huge passionfruit vine, and the Saint Michael’s University Church Garden at the corner of Picasso Road and Camino Pescadero. Both of these gardens are open to harvesting from the public, and although they’re popular, they’re good places to grab some herbs or, if you’re lucky, some produce. The Methodist Garden even has a peach tree that produces tons of fruit in the summer. Speaking of trees, the Sueño Orchard is another great place to harvest some food for free. Located on the 67 block of Sueño Road, the orchard has over 60 trees to pick from, including avocado, lime, apple, mulberry and many more. When these trees are in season, there’s tons of fruit to go around, so make sure to walk by the orchard every once in a while and check what’s growing!
CalFresh and EBT: Did you know the state of California can fund your weekly trips to Trader Joe’s? Through the CalFresh program, eligible students that fit the criteria on the CalFresh website can receive up to $250 per month for groceries. CalFresh benefits are issued through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. The EBT card can be used on any cold food item at a wide range of grocery stores, such as the Isla Vista Food Cooperative, Trader Joe’s and Costco. EBT cards can also be used at farmers’ markets in the Goleta and Santa Barbara area. Students can apply to the CalFresh program here or seek assistance by sending an email to email@example.com.
Kosher and Halal Grocery Program: UCSB’s Kosher and Halal Grocery Program provides free, weekly groceries for students who keep Halal and Kosher to address the lack of Halal- and Kosher-friendly food options on campus and in Isla Vista. Partnerships with the A.S. Food Bank, Isla Vista Food Co-op and the Food Security & Basic Needs Taskforce have made this program possible. Undergraduate and graduate students who keep a Halal or Kosher diet are invited to apply for free groceries by using this Google form.
Food Not Bombs: Food Not Bombs (FNB) simultaneously combats food insecurity and food waste. The global nonprofit organization believes that food access is a basic human right. The organization has a chapter in Isla Vista that regularly provides free vegan and vegetarian meals to community members. Students are also welcome to volunteer at FNB events and can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get further involved in their community. FNB’s Isla Vista chapter works with the Isla Vista Food Co-op and local farmers in order to save perfectly viable food that would otherwise be discarded. Their events are commonly held at Little Acorn Park. Visit their Instagram page for more information on how to obtain free meals and participate in other community events!
Isla Vista Community Fridge: Founded by a Food Not Bombs organizer, the community fridge on the corner of Embarcadero del Norte and Cervantes Road is open to all. Community members are invited to both take and contribute food from the fridge in order to keep it stocked at all times, similar to a lending library. The fridge receives regular donations from Food Not Bombs and Local Harvest Delivery. Their Instagram is updated with photos of the food available inside the fridge. While the community fridge does not take the place of a trip to the grocery store, it provides the Isla Vista community with fresh food that may be difficult for some to access.
Spending hundreds of dollars on groceries each month is a luxury. Now, more than ever, affordable, fresh food is less accessible than it was even a few years ago due to inflation, supply chain issues and even climate change. Shedding light on food access resources and letting friends, classmates and family learn how to utilize these programs can help remove the stigma around food insecurity and truly address this issue. Hopefully, with this list, students can use these helpful resources to obtain more affordable, or even free, groceries and meals or learn how to support others in the UCSB community. With all the other stressors that come with being a full-time student, obtaining nutritious food should never be one of them.