Gwendolyn Wu
Executive Content Editor

Associated Students Food Bank clients may soon walk up the stairs of the UCen to a new and improved pantry space.

The UCen Governance Board recently allowed the Food Bank to expand out into the study spaces on the third floor of the building over the next year. The Food Bank currently uses space for two offices, a waiting room, and a two-room pantry on the third floor.

As the Food Bank gains more patrons, an expansion might be helpful. According to their website, students have logged 70,000 visits to the small offices in the UCen. Indeed, a peek into their pantry at noon on a weekday produces over a dozen people waiting in line to grab canned soups, fresh carrots, or peanut butter crackers.

Breanna Jones, chair of the A.S. Food Bank Committee, told The Bottom Line in November that expansion has always been on the table.

“It was never really a question of just expanding,” said Jones, a fourth year English and film and media studies double major. “We have been considering wanting to move into a bigger location in general, so the expansion possibility is just a stepping stone to hopefully one day acquiring a bigger, better space for our pantry and our clients in general.”

According to meeting minutes from October, the Food Bank wanted to use space on the third floor of the UCen to have more microwaves and tables students could eat at. However, the new expansion was less than the space originally requested, and the upcoming third floor Food Bank space will be used as a lobby.

Jones expressed interest in establishing more refrigerators for produce in the current waiting room of the Food Bank. The organization works with local farmers and suppliers, and gets shipments of fruits and vegetables for storage. Adding refrigerators would make it easier to store many of them.

The new space will also help as the school expands its Edible Campus Program, a UCSB Sustainability and Department of Public Worms project designed to minimize food waste and promote food security on campus. Some of the Food Bank’s oranges comes from the citrus trees in the program, and if the new space can accommodate more fresh produce, sustainability advocates on campus will experiment with growing new produce on campus.

The popularity of mobile food distributions and demonstrations on campus, with over 600 students served, shows that there is a real need for fresh food on campus. Many student groups are aiding the efforts by promoting the confidential service, and for the Class of 2017, giving their senior class gift to the Food Bank.

The Food Bank hasn’t set a date yet for their new digs, but they hope to have definitive deadlines by winter quarter. According to Kathy Lopez, a fourth year biology major who works as a student coordinator at the Food Bank, figuring out the timeline hinges on getting price quotes on equipment from manufacturers.

The new year and new project is also marked by a loss. Tuyen Nguyen, the Food Bank’s advisor, finished her last day at the pantry on Friday. She expressed amazement in the amount of students and staff who have collaborated with her in bringing the Food Bank to life.

“I’m a firm believer that partnerships and relationships have really helped foster [the Food Bank],” Nguyen said to The Bottom Line.

Nguyen, a UCSB alumna, has been instrumental in setting up the popular pantry ever since former A.S. President Paul Monge-Rodriguez and SIRRC Co-Chair Guadalupe Cruz spearheaded the initiative in 2011. Countless students have worked with her to establish the Food Bank in the past five years, and as she departs from Santa Barbara this week, they’ll continue to work on its expansion.

They’re the ones behind the wheels of mobile recipe demonstrations and handing out fresh produce in other parts of campus and Isla Vista. In Nguyen’s eyes, it’s inspiring to see so many students support the efforts to eliminate food insecurity on campus.

“There are amazing young folks at the helm of doing all of this awesome work right now,” Nguyen said. “I’m glad to be a part of that, and as I’m leaving, there are really brilliant young folks taking on the torch and they’re going to move some really exciting things in the next six months.”