By Alan Rivera
Associated Students, Inc. President Uriah Sanders and Cal Poly Pomona President Soraya M. Coley outlined efforts and plans to address food insecurity and establish an undocumented student center at the Pizza with the Presidents forum on Nov. 1.
Long-term solutions to tackle food insecurity are being explored and evaluated, according to Sanders. Donating meal points, a notification system for leftover food after campus events and establishing an on-campus food pantry have all been introduced and are being evaluated as possible solutions.
“Our goal is to have something for you within this year, so that’s exciting,” said Sanders to a crowd of over 100 students, faculty members and staff. “And it’s a shared goal between us and the university and there’s been a lot of progress on it.”
Coley expressed concern over the stigma that often follows people who suffer from food insecurity. She validated the severity of food insecurity and reminded food insecure students to recognize that they are a part of “the Bronco family.”
“And what family does is to respond to the best of their ability to the needs that are presented by members of the family,” said Coley. “And so while we put these things in place, one of the things that’s very important is that people are supported in taking advantage of these things and not made to feel that there’s something wrong with them.”
A 2016 study commissioned by California State University Chancellor Timothy White found that one in five CSU students lack steady access to food and one in 10 CSU students lack stable housing.
According to Lea Jarnagin, the vice president for the Division of Student Affairs, similar, more in-depth studies will continue in order for the university system to better understand the severity of the problem.
Jarnagin, however, also informed attendees that on-campus efforts to address both issues are underway through a group led by Sara Gamez, the associate director of student support and equity programs.
“This is a goal that I’ve been working very closely with the students in ASI, who are taking leadership on putting together resources moving forward so we can address this issue going forward,” said Jarnagin during the forum.
The establishment of an undocumented student center or DREAM center was also discussed during the forum. Jarnagin reassured students about the university’s commitment to serving undocumented students and also outlined the steps it has taken toward establishing a center dedicated to them.
Mike Pedro, the coordinator of Undocumented Student Services for the Division of Student Affairs, was recently hired by the university to serve as a resource for undocumented students.
Pedro has been working with undocumented students and immigrants for almost 10 years.
However, efforts are still in progress to establish a formal center.
“This follows the vein and the spirit and the value that we have for ensuring both safe and brave spaces, so please connect with Mike,” said Jarnagin during her remarks. “We are working on this project right now and have prioritized finding a space.”
Sanders concurred with Jarnagin’s comments and affirmed ASI’s commitment to creating a proposal for the establishment of an undocumented student center.
Sanders also thanked Diana Ascencio, the 2015-16 ASI vice president, and Karen Romero, the current senator-at-large on the Multi-Cultural Council, for jumpstarting the work toward creating the center.
A taskforce is currently being assembled to pen a resolution for the undocumented student center. Upon completion, the resolution will be introduced to the university, according to Gabriel Smith, the ASI vice president.
“Now the hope is, by spring, we have had enough conversations with the university that we are in the process of either having the construction of an undocumented/DREAM center or, perhaps, found a space that is usable for undocumented students,” said Smith after the forum.
There are approximately 1,200 students that are recognized as “Non-Resident Alien/ International Students,” according to the Resolution in Support of Undocumented Student Success, which was approved by the ASI Senate on Feb. 11.
Other issues brought forth during Pizza with the Presidents included food waste, semester conversion, transportation, accessibility of programs to African-American students and technological innovations.
Pizza With The Presidents was held in the University Quad during U-Hour.
The forum was the first for Sanders, who was elected at the end of the 2015-16 academic year.
Alan Rivera / The Poly Post
The first Pizza with the Presidents of the school year
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