At UC Santa Barbara, there are resources available for those experiencing food insecurity, or the lack of regular access to food, such as the Associated Students (A.S.) Food Bank at UCSB or the Food Security and Basic Needs Advising Center. 

avg change in food price

The data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the percent change of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all urban consumers in the U.S. CPI measures the average change in price over time of consumer goods and services. (Olivia Davis / Daily Nexus)

Food security is increasing among UC Santa Barbara students in light of the national increase in the cost of food over the last few years.

2018 food sec

The UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) food insecurity data for 2018 indicated a majority of students who took the survey had very low food security: 49% of the students who took the survey experienced very low food security, 21% experienced low food security and 30% experienced high or marginal food security. (Karen Yuan / Daily Nexus)

2022 food sec

According to the UCUES food security data of 2022, 24% of the students who took the survey experienced very low food security, 19% experienced low food security and 57% experienced high or marginal food security. (Karen Yuan / Daily Nexus)

Recently, statistics show there has been an increase in the percentage of students experiencing high or marginal food security. According to the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES), 30% of students experienced high or marginal food security in 2018, which was before the COVID-19 pandemic and 57% experienced high or marginal food security in 2022. In other words, an additional 15,000 UC students were able to consistently access food. 

The A.S. Food Bank at UCSB has dedicated their work toward improving food security among students on campus. The food bank offers order pick-ups at various locations around the campus and a program regarding the knowledge of food and nutrition to students.

Throughout the 2021-22 school year, A.S. Food Bank distributed 179,651 pounds of food to students, according to data provided by A.S. Food Bank.

Fifth-year anthropology major Michelle Woo, the A.S. Food Bank operations coordinator, said the A.S. Food Bank has developed a vending machine project, which is free of charge and collects meals from the Arbor. If the Arbor does not sell a food product by its expiration date, this program reclaims the food and provides it to those who are facing food insecurity. This vending machine is located in the lobby between the Multicultural Center and Associated Students and is available for students to access during operating hours of the building.

“We reclaim that food, and we’ll put it in the vending machine. And then people who don’t have kitchens or are just dealing with financial crises and can’t cook or whatever can go to the vending machine, which is 100% free,” she said.

The A.S. Food Bank has another initiative to help students facing food insecurity. The Department of Public Worms (DPW), an additional Associated Students entity, aims to compost food rather than waste it.

According to Woo, the A.S. Food Bank’s goal is to maximize the resources available to help students in need.

“We have been trying to put more snack stations in places and have better ways to meet students where they need to be,” Woo said. “We just try to provide a well-rounded diet, making sure we have any kinds of [items for] other parts of the food group. Sometimes we’ll adjust things for holidays.”

According to A.S. Food Bank special programs supervisor Sarah Wagner, a fourth-year environmental studies major, one program that was introduced during the pandemic was the online bagging system to accommodate students with different kinds of needs, such as those who do not have a kitchen and those who only acquire produce.

“[The] program allowed students to submit online orders and pick up their food at any point during operating hours,” she said.

While initially implemented due to COVID-19 restrictions, the A.S. Food Bank decided to continue the bagging system due to its convenience and efficiency, according to Wagner.

“[Students] appreciate browsing grocery options before visiting the food bank and having the flexibility to go when they please,” Wagner said. 

The A.S. Food Bank additionally hosts pop-up events on campus where they provide free produce and snacks to students to serve as a mini-food bank and advocate for their program.

“[The pop-ups] take place at Pardall [Road] and the [Student Resource Building] SRB, meeting students where they are at … in a more central part of campus,” Wagner said. 

Rebecca Segundo, the UCSB Basic Needs and Rapid Rehousing Program manager, added that the Food Security and Basic Needs Advising Center had become a distribution site for several other programs who were not able to deliver otherwise critical in-person services, such as the Undocumented Student Services Grocery Voucher Program, the Halal and Kosher Grocery Program and the Basic Needs Tech Support Program.

“More programs have developed in the last four years, as well as more program integration and coordination, which has allowed us to more intentionally serve students with meaningful impact,” Segundo said.

Both Woo and Segundo emphasized the amount of programs and projects they launched to reach out to more UCSB students, making students aware of them and utilizing their resources. There has been a significant increase in the number of people experiencing high or marginal food security, according to the UCUES.

“This data aligns with the great work being done on the education front with our Health & Wellness team through the UCSB Cooks and Food, Nutrition & Basic Skills Program. These programs provide educational tools for students to learn how to prepare healthy and nutritious meals within their budget,” Segundo said.


Source: A.S. Food Bank
There was a significant decrease in the percentage of students registered for A.S. Food Bank services during the 2020-21 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and campus closures, but otherwise, the percentage of students registering for A.S. Food Bank services increased each year. (Jinglin Yang / Daily Nexus)

There was a significant decline in the percentage of students registered for A.S. Food Bank services in 2020-21 school year. Only 6.17% of enrolled students signed up for A.S. Food Bank services, but that number increased by approximately 16 percentage points in the 2021-22 school year as students returned to campus.

During the COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding campus closures, UCSB Basic Needs made changes to their programs and resources to accommodate students’ needs. 

“Anecdotally, during [COVID-19] the needs of students changed significantly. While we had fewer UCSB students in the immediate campus area, the students in the area needed more support. We also conducted many programs remotely, including remote CalFresh registrations. In general, we had more food distributions and had fewer visits to the A.S. Food Bank,” Segundo said.

To register for A.S. Food Bank services, students can sign up on the A.S. Food Bank website. The A.S. Food Bank also offers opportunities to volunteer and help combat food insecurity. The volunteer interest form can also be found on the official A.S. Food Bank website or students can visit to sign up.