Hungry, Hungry Gauchos: The AS Food Bank Satisfies Gauchos One Visit (and T-shirt) at a Time


Madeleine Lee

To kick off fall quarter, the AS Food Bank has one big, bold, bright yellow apology to make on your behalf: they’re sorry for what you said when you were hungry.

The AS Food Bank, a branch of Associated Students founded in the spring of 2011, is rolling out a new line of eye-catching shirts this October as a means of apology — and increased awareness — of the hunger crisis on campus.

“Hunger on our campus is real, yet we find that many students are ashamed to admit they rely on the Food Bank as a pantry provider,” says Tuyen Nguyen, Food Bank coordinator. “These shirts take the shame out of hunger and turn that need instead into a conversation worth having.”

Available at the Isla Vista Food Co-Op for $15 each, these endearingly (and almost unforgivably) yellow shirts, the first of what one could call the “autumn casual” AS Food Bank clothing line, emerge as a small step in the much larger social media movement they’ve dubbed the “Voices of Hunger” campaign.

Through the newly established “ucsbasfoodbank” Instagram account, the AS Food Bank is taking their message to the virtual world through a collection of personal testimonials from UCSB students and professors. Of the dozens of smiling faces holding their personalized “How Hunger Affects Me” signs, the consensus is clear — hunger makes gauchos and professors alike tired, stressed and terribly hangry.

By serving almost 300-400 students a day and doling out nearly 4000 pounds of food a week, the AS Food Bank works to alleviate those feelings of hunger-induced stress in the short run. However, as Nguyen and many others believe, the hunger crisis revealed in these student testimonials requires a solution that exists only by amending the larger structural framework of UC programs.

The “Voices of Hunger” social media campaign, as well as the “#UCfood4all” hashtag that accompanies each of their Instagram photos, is a collaborative attempt with the UC Global Food Initiative to pass a definitive Food Security Plan within the next year — one that would include further support for student financial wellness, campus food production and nutrition and health workshops.

In the meantime, the AS Food Bank continues to feed and educate the masses on cheap and healthy eats for the modest annual fee of $1.81 per undergrad and $0.80 per graduate student. Open Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9-6 PM, Nguyen and her team dole out a variety of fresh produce, cooking staples and toiletries. A week of awareness activities is also in the works for the week of Oct. 16 in honor of World Hunger Action Month.

When asked for any last tips for the hungry college student eating on a tight budget, Nguyen replied with the wisest of anecdotes: find events with free food.

“The easiest way to eat for cheap on a budget is to eat for free,” said Nguyen, “and there’s no better place to eat for free than on a college campus.”

And though the war on hunger still continues, that is a stomach-filling truth we can’t argue with.

Follow @ucsbasfoodbank on Instagram for more updates.