The UCI FRESH Basic Needs Hub is dedicated to supporting students with basic food and housing security through the provision of resources, tools and accessibility. Deemed an essential service, FRESH has continuously demonstrated resilience and its commitment to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FRESH quickly adapted its programs and resources during the pandemic to align with social distancing and safety guidelines. Designated pantry food distribution dates were established and organized through an online appointment system, enabling staff to reduce lines and limit the amount of time students spent picking up orders. Students pre-request food boxes, with options from produce, dairy, protein and nonperishable staples boxes. From April to August 2020, the pantry food distributions received over 2,700 visits, and continue to operate through the academic year.
Additional access to fruits and vegetables was developed through a community partnership with Tanaka Farms, located three miles from UC Irvine’s campus. The Farm-to-FRESH Produce Voucher Program provides students up to four monthly $30 vouchers at Tanaka Farm’s drive-through stand. Over 4,700 produce vouchers were redeemed during the span of five months, with the program continuing to serve to this day. Also, UCI’s Ants in Your Plants Garden was recently certified as a food donation site in partnership with ASUCI and FRESH.
FRESH also plays a crucial role in promoting housing security opportunities during the pandemic, including by offering the Off-Campus Housing Support Grant. This grant helps alleviate financial pressure for students paying for off-campus rental housing within Orange County, allowing one-time requests of up to $2,000. In spring 2020, the grant supported 340 students, with a total of $321,485 awarded.