Free Friday Feasts for the Struggling Student


Vi Le

Photo Courtesy of Velo Steve

Student-community collaboration creates Café Picasso, where weekly free meals are provided for any student who needs it.

The image of the starving college student is one that is often glorified, but the truth is that many students genuinely struggle to get by. To address this issue, University of California Santa Barbara’s IDEAS (Improving Dreams, Equality, Access and Success) and St. Michael’s Episcopal Church have collaborated to create Café Picasso. Established winter quarter 2012, Café Picasso offers free dinners every Friday for students.

“As a college student and an undocumented student, having a space like Cafe Picasso makes a huge difference and lifts a weight off of my shoulders,” said second-year environmental and global studies major and intern at Café Picasso, Gloria Campos. “I know the feeling of skipping meals because I’d rather save that money for school. Students on this campus, both documented and undocumented, find themselves having to choose between eating a full meal and saving money for rent and paying a quarter’s tuition.”

The goal of Café Picasso is to provide assistance in the form of meals to any student in need of them. Whether it be a student who is struggling to afford groceries or one who doesn’t have the time to cook a proper meal for him- or herself, Café Picasso offers its services.

“Cafe Picasso was originally created to meet the needs of undocumented students who were unable to use the AS Food Bank as a result of deferring their enrollment from UCSB while they saved enough money for another quarter’s tuition. The Cafe is open to all students and this past year we tried to create a space where students felt comfortable and were able to find a home away from home,” said Campos.

Café Picasso’s weekly dinners are served from 6-8 p.m. at 6586 Picasso Road. Beyond just the dinners, Café Picasso’s pantry is open to students any time during the week and events such as cooking workshops and study nights are held. Upon request, the space is available for personal use as a study space.

“It’s a space that I think is really needed by students because I know personally, I can’t go to the library because it’s just too far away from my dorm or there are too many people there,” said second-year political science major, Linda Gonzalez. “I think having Café Picasso is a really good resource for students like me who just want a space away from the environment of school.”

Despite being such a great resource, Café Picasso is still very much under the radar and isn’t utilized as much as it could be. Attendance at dinners is particularly low.

“Unfortunately it isn’t as many as we would want to go. I remember last time I went we were about 10-12 people. Even though we’re constantly promoting, not that many people go,” said Gonzalez.

Picasso is run solely on grant money, donations and on a volunteer basis, giving the program much potential to grow. As more students start to take advantage of this resource, Café Picasso hopes to get more and more recognition.