Campus Dialogue

Creating a Basic Needs Cafe at Cowell College

April 04, 2018

By , College Administrative Officer (831) 459-3642

Hunger on college campuses is a growing concern across the United States and was recently highlighted in an article in the Washington Post, The Hidden crisis on college campuses: 36 percent of students don’t have enough to eat. Like other University of California campuses, we are not immune. In 2016, 44% of UC undergraduates and 26% of UC graduate students reported having experienced food insecurity. At present, leadership from all ten UC campuses are working together to address food and housing insecurity at the local and system-wide level.

The decentralized nature of our campus makes it difficult to create a one-stop shop that will meet all students’ needs. We offer a few food pantries on campus for students, but we could still do more.

The Global Food Initiative and Sustainable Food-systems Working Group on campus, in partnership with the Blum Center, have been working hard to think creatively about how to address food insecurity on campus. In addition to a variety of programs and initiatives that are spread across campus, these campus partners have approached Dining Services and Cowell College with a proposal to transform the Cowell coffee shop into a multi-service cafe, with extended weekend hours, that will maintain the study space coupled with free coffee and tea.

The basic premise is this:
The lower part of the cafe would remain a student study space with free coffee and tea, plus a variety of programming options focused on nutrition, financial wellness, CalFresh workshops, cooking skills workshops, etc.
The upper part of the cafe—the kitchen—would serve as a food pantry and demonstration kitchen for student programming.
The transactional nature of the cafe would change—no longer will students be able to purchase food and beverage in the cafe, but instead the space will offer basic needs services for free to any UCSC student.

Open forums and meetings with various stakeholder groups at Cowell and Stevenson Colleges were held last quarter. We now invite students from across campus to participate in a dialogue about the proposal. Campus dialogues are scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 10 at 12pm in the Red Room at Rachel Carson College and at 6:30pm in the Namaste Lounge at College 9. We also invite students to review our FAQ page, which was created based on questions we’ve received thus far from faculty, staff and students.

To learn more about food and housing insecurity among UC students, please check out this resource:

Global Food Initiative: Food and Housing Insecurity at the University of California, December 2017.