A bigger family often needs a new home, and UCI’s Basic Needs Center is no different.
Established in 2015 as a student food security program with one employee, director and then newly minted UCI grad Andrea Mora ran the Center from a trailer in a parking lot of the Mesa Court student housing complex. But last month Mora, now one of 11 employees plus more than 50 student assistants, cut the ribbon on the program’s new permanent home at the former Café Med site that includes office space and a fully stocked food market.
Providing food to nutritionally at-risk students continues to be the high-profile, priority program of the Basic Needs Center.
Mora said the Center works with the state CalFresh project, enrolling eligible students for CalFresh’s program that provides special electronic benefit cards for food and toiletries. According to Mora, some 10,000 UCI low-income students are eligible for the program.
The new facility also includes a market where students who simply cannot afford to buy food can come and choose from the store’s offerings. The Basic Needs Center works with the Second Harvest Food Bank, the OC Food Bank and a grocery rescue project involving a dozen local stores to stock its shelves with fresh vegetables, dairy products and canned and jarred food.
But, says Mora, “there’s a lot more to the Center than the pantry, although that’s what we’re best known for.” The program also offers help for students in several other areas: transportation; housing assistance; financial education; economic crisis grants; and consultations with social workers. There’s also a diaper bank for new parents and a program of professional clothing support.
Now, says Mora, “we finally have a beautiful home at this great location on campus!”
The Basic Needs Center is located at 800 W. Peltason Drive, at the base of the Health Sciences walking bridge, which connects the Science Library to the School of Medicine complex.