UC Santa Barbara’s Food Security & Basic Needs Taskforce is collaborating with professors in the Department of Asian American Studies to study barriers to basic needs within the university’s Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander populations. 

The research project, which will focus on food and housing insecurity, will be conducted at the beginning of Spring Quarter 2023 by a team of 16 undergraduate researchers, according to Acting Director of Sustainability, Food Security & Basic Needs Taskforce staff member and Principal Investigator of the project Katie Maynard.

Katie Maynard is the principal investigator of the research effort. Courtesy of Katie Maynard

The team of researchers will be led by UCSB postdoctoral scholar Corbin Hodges. 

The research will be based on surveys sent to Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students at UCSB, which will survey food, housing, mental health and other relevant topics. 

Asian American studies professor Alexander Cho will also be teaching a course called “Human Centered Design for Equity” for students to help conduct the project, Asian American studies professor and research project member Diane Fujino said. 

Asian American studies department Professor Diane Fujino is one of the two professors involved in the research effort. Courtesy of Diane Fujino

The survey will be released on March 7 to all AANHPI students on campus via mass email and consist of a community needs assessment created by an AANHPI student advisory board of all involved members of the research project. 

“We are excited to hear from more students about their experiences, needs and ideas for solutions,” Maynard said about the survey. 

AAPI Data at UC Riverside awarded the team a $199,994 grant to cover the community needs assessment, to be spent through September 2023. 

The group will involve two staff members from the UCSB Asian Pacific Islander Taskforce, a staff member from the UCSB Diversity, Equity and Inclusion office, two Asian American studies department faculty and a staff member from the Educational Opportunity program, Maynard said.

“We believe strongly in compensating people for their time, so we only began solidifying the membership after the grant was awarded this quarter and we knew what we could offer,” Maynard said. “We hope to release the names of all the advisory board members once the hiring process is complete.”

The effort to establish the research group began in 2014 in collaboration with University of California systemwide partners when the UCSB Food Security & Basic Needs Taskforce studied food and housing security within different student demographics. 

Maynard said the 2014 study showed that the AANHPI student population is more likely to experience food insecurity than their white counterparts, and AANHPI students are underserved in basic needs programs. 

“Each year, we also track the demographics of the students who participate in basic needs services on the campus and we have consistently found that AANHPI students are underserved in basic needs programs,” Maynard said in a statement to the Nexus. “This motivated us to pursue a community needs assessment with our AANHPI students.”

According to Maynard, the research aims to disaggregate the current data available on food and housing security rates for AANHPI students to better understand how different communities within the AANHPI population experience basic needs insecurity and access services on campus. 

“We also hope to better understand what barriers prevent or discourage our AANHPI students from utilizing basic needs programs,” Maynard said. “We would like to hear from AANHPI students as to what services would be helpful in meeting their needs and what they would want from those services.” 

Fujino said the course will not only assess this issue of basic needs insecurity but utilize focus groups and input from community members to brainstorm attainable solutions. She expressed hope that the research can be expanded with further funding to conduct direct interviews with members of different AANHPI communities to capture a better understanding of basic needs barriers for AANHPI students. 

“Students in the class would reach out to different AANHPI communities and hear what their needs are and what kind of solutions are needed,” she said.   

Fujino hopes this research will result in more specific resources being directed toward different AANHPI communities to dismantle the barrier for basic needs services and encourage solutions of their own.

Fujino spoke to the general lack of visibility on issues facing the AANHPI community due to the perpetuation of the model minority myth. 

“It disciplines Black radicalism and tries to say there’s no need for dissent, but it also covers up anti-Asian racism and it also covers up problems in Asian America in really problematic ways,” she said. “I think it’s really crucial that we talk about these problems, and we figure out what communities need.”

Maynard echoed Fujino’s sentiment, emphasizing that the needs of the AANHPI community are often overlooked due to social presumptions and barriers. 

“This may be a result of the model minority myth or other forms of anti-Asian racism,” Maynard said in her statement. “We also noticed that very little has been published on the basic needs of the AANHPI community as compared to other communities and so there is a lot unknown about the needs of these communities.” 

Maynard spoke to instances mentioned of housing discrimination and anti-racism that various AANHPI community members said they’ve faced during and post-COVID-19. 

“Anecdotally, as service providers through our basic needs advising center, we also noticed anti-Asian racism coming up during and post-COVID,” she said. “We have heard stories from student clients about experiencing housing discrimination as an example.” 

The group is working to expand the project into a two year program with a grant through the California Department of Social Services’ “Stop the Hate Program Funding.” The timeline would include pilot projects launched from the community needs assessment, two more community based courses and a speaker series hosted by the Asian American studies department. 

“It is hard to say how much funding would be needed in the long term because we need to hear from AANHPI students about their needs first, which we hope to do through the community needs assessment this year,” Maynard said. “The feedback gained through that process will guide future fundraising efforts.”

Overall, Maynard said this project will create an avenue to hearing about issues the AANHPI community faces and implement tangible solutions in response. 

“This research project is structured to help us hear directly from the AANHPI community about what they want to see,” Maynard said. “For now, there is much more that we do not know than we know.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 3 of the March 9, 2023, print edition of the Daily Nexus.


Asumi Shuda
Asumi Shuda (they/them) is the Lead News Editor for the 2023-24 school year. Previously, Shuda was the Deputy News Editor, Community Outreach News Editor for the 2022-23 school year and the 2021-22 school year and an Assistant News Editor during the 2020-21 school year. They can be reached at asumishuda@dailynexus.com or news@dailynexus.com.