CHANCELL-ING: Join the Fight Against Food Insecurity

Chancellor Gary S. May greets students walking into the Pantry
Chancellor Gary S. May volunteers at The ASUCD Pantry. (Karin Higgins/UC Davis)

This month I want to address an issue that means a lot to me. That topic is food insecurity. On the surface, it may be hard to tell that our neighbors and friends, our students and their families experience hunger on a regular basis.

Blue graphic of Chancellor Gary S. May with text: Gary May Chancell-ing. A town-gown newspaper column.

According to Feeding America, the projected increase in food insecurity for Yolo County from 2019 to 2021 is estimated to have grown by 24%. I don’t know about you, but I find that troubling, especially when we live in a region abundant in agriculture.

During the pandemic, the UC Davis campus community increased its efforts to help the Yolo Food Bank with food deliveries to some of the region’s most vulnerable communities. Others helped Yolo Food Bank by processing requests and responding to driver concerns.

In turn, Yolo Food Bank provided crucial support to UC Davis. Did you know that our students are the single largest recipient of food that’s accessed from Yolo Food Bank community partnerships? That accounts for nearly 275,000 pounds each year between the ASUCD Pantry, Solano Park Apartments, and Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center.

In 2018, the last time food insecurity was measured among UC Davis students, the results of a campus survey found that 44% of UC Davis students experienced some form of food insecurity. That is a stunning number.

What we can all do

You may be wondering how you can help. In addition to encouraging people to contribute in any way they can to the Yolo Food Bank, we welcome volunteers and contributions to our efforts at UC Davis. Food donations can be made at our Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center. Volunteers at The Pantry, located in the Memorial Union, help with a variety of tasks so that students can pick up food and other goods.

I’m pleased that we also have a Pantry that is owned and operated by the Graduate Student Association in partnership with the Aggie Compass. It’s located within our new Graduate Center at historic Walker Hall.

I was thrilled to join Yolo Food Bank’s recent campaign drive, “Flipping the Food System: Nourishing the Workers Who Nourish Us.” As I stated there, California produces more than two-thirds of our country’s fruits and nuts and more than one-third of its vegetables. So, there’s no reason that anyone in the Yolo County community should go hungry.

Our essential food system workers sustain California’s agriculture and deserve both our thanks and support. More than 7,000 people are agriculture workers in Yolo County, the people who make “farm-to-fork” possible.

These essential food system workers are also produce packers, processors and those who transport, retail and prepare our food. They form the backbone of our favorite restaurant kitchens and are stewards of the land.

So, as move deeper into spring and summer, I encourage you to take a look around at those who may be in need. We have the power to make a difference in the face of food insecurity.

Chancellor Gary S. May’s monthly column appears first in The Davis Enterprise and then in Dateline UC Davis.

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