Food justice: De Anza needs accessible food services3 min read

May 3, 2016

Students sit in the back of their classroom munching on apples and granola bars. A young girl’s hand is red from snacking on hot cheetos on the way to class. Some friends furtively attempt to hide their various lunch items as the librarian walks by.

There is no denying that college students get hungry, whether they wake up in the early hours to catch a bus from San Jose, or wait out the long break between classes. But imagine coming to De Anza hungry because you do not have a viable means of getting affordable food in the community you come from.

This is the plight of numerous college students, many of whom blend in with the rest of us and in turn, seek out assistance. But when we think of an individual who benefits from donated foods and other affordable eating options, we often overlook the fact that not all of them are homeless.

Screen Shot 2016-05-03 at 3.59.13 AM
Photo Creds: Adrian Discipulo The food pantry, located in the Seminar 3 building at De Anza, is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. It is supported by the West Valley Community Services.

According to a study by Feeding America, a national network of over 200 food banks, “One in seven Americans – 46 million people – rely on food pantries and meal service programs to feed themselves and their families.”

For many Americans this is the norm. This surprisingly large portion of the population consists of homeowners supporting families and even young adults working their way through school – especially in Silicon Valley, where high home prices and the lack of rent control leaves families and young adults struggling to make ends meet.

It is essential that De Anza makes food services more accessible.

Having access to food is a fundamental human right. This ideology has given rise to the term “Food Justice” in reference to the movement to provide affordable and accessible food options to those in need. While this movement is a good first step, it must expand so that all students have access to basic human necessities

Here at De Anza, pre-law major Keith Rayos Lara, 19, is shedding light to this matter and stressing the need for food justice on campus. Regarding the current resources available for disadvantaged students, Lara said, “Right now our food pantry at the Office of Outreach is the best option for students, but they can only do so much.”

This pantry is in the Seminar 3 Building and is supported by food from West Valley Community Services. However, it has limited food options, restricted hours of operation, and is located in the very back of campus. As chair of the DASB Senate’s Student Rights and Services Committee, Lara hopes to establish satellites pantries across campus that are more accessible to students. The main focus as of now though, is to bring awareness to this program so that more students can benefit from it.

One of the underlying reasons why students may choose not to seek out help and benefit from this service is the negative stigma, or embarrassment of going to a food pantry.

“Nobody should feel stigmatized for being hungry and wanting to sustain themselves” he said. “What we need to do as a community is marginalize that stigma and move away from this culture of degrading each other.”

In the long-run, Lara aims to bring “organic, fresh and healthy food from the local community to our school.” Regarding the challenge this presents, Lara admits, “We need to seek out help from outside of campus because we know we can’t do it all ourselves.”

Although food security among disadvantaged communities is an issue faced across the nation it makes sense for De Anza students to put it at the forefront of their agenda along with other concerns such as safety. As students face increasing pressure to do well in school, the campus as a whole should increase efforts to provide healthy and affordable food through awareness and supporting students who benefit from food justice.

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