Brianna sees about 65 former foster youth, now UCLA students every week. The program she manages, Bruin Guardian Scholars, aims to provide the supports former foster youth might be missing. This often entails scholarships, guidance, community and food.
I met with Brianna to discuss how the meal vouchers that Swipe Out Hunger provides her students can better help. Right off the bat, the first way was to get them more vouchers.
Currently, the thousands of students who are food insecure at UCLA, UCSB and beyond receive meal vouchers through Swipe Out Hunger. These give them access into campus dining halls where they’re able to have a warm, nutritious meal.
As Brianna and I spoke, it was clear we needed to get her scholars more meal vouchers. As I asked more, she suddenly got up from her seat and opened her desk cabinet. It revealed shelves full of food.
“But what about the UCLA food closet? They don’t want to get food from there?” The campus has a small room which is stocked with food, provided by community donations and Swipe Out Hunger.
I wasn’t surprised when she said that the STIGMA attached to using the campus food closet made some students reluctant to visit. Currently, about 100-150 students and UCLA employees utilize the closet daily. Being food insecure on campus is not an easy or comfortable position to be in. Having noticed her scholars reluctance, Brianna began ordering tons of food that she now keeps in her office. When students come in for their weekly meeting, she asks if they want a snack. Few pass up the offer.
Swipe Out Hunger has committed itself to these students. Every day, we will work to make sure they have food– and we will work to tackle the stigma associated with asking for help. Over the next three years, we're embarking on a mission to have 150 universities step up and consider students' access to food as much as they consider students' access to a football game. If you're inspired you can help by introducing us to a new university or helping to fund the launch of one.
Some facts about former foster youth:
- Only 10% attend university.
- Of that 10%, only 26% actually graduate with a degree (so 3% of foster youth total).
- “Financial skills training is vital for youth themselves but also for foster parents to enable them to help young people in their care as they move on into the adult world"
- You can help us support more of them here.
- You can learn about college student hunger here.
Statistics via Cohn and Kelly