Sunday, January 16, 2011

Food Pantry at a Local University

Is it just me, or is there something untoward about a food pantry at a University of California campus?

College students are known to scrape by on meager meals like peanut butter sandwiches, cold cereal and ramen noodles. But as tuition skyrockets and family finances remain tight, some students are having trouble buying even such humble staples.

It's given rise to a small but growing trend: the campus food bank, where hungry students can get a free can of soup, box of oatmeal or package of spaghetti. A food pantry opens today at the University of California, Davis, following similar efforts at UCLA, Bakersfield College and Oregon State University.

"It's the most basic need of a student – to eat," said UC Davis student Ashley Thomas, who plans to use the pantry. "You can't study for a chemistry final if you're hungry."

I have no idea if young Ashley, or anyone else who plans to use the food pantry, is genuinely needy. I have no idea how much electronic equipment she owns, where she shops, or when the last time she visited Starbucks or Nugget Market (it's a nice one in Davis) was. I have no idea how much she herself pays for tuition, or if she lives in a dorm room or an apartment, or if she has a car. I have no idea if she has a job. But honestly, is a college student at a top California university truly so needy that he/she has to rely on charity just to eat?

A sign next to the service counter tells student volunteers how to help customers. Pantry volunteers must ask students seeking free food to show their student ID cards but don't record their names or ask about their finances. Students can visit the pantry as often as they like and can get enough food for three meals during each visit.

"We are a little concerned about people taking advantage," said Gold, 21. "But there's an inherent risk any time you start a new project, and there's so much overall benefit from this project that we're hoping it's worth the risk."

Who wouldn't go, just to save a few bucks that could be spent elsewhere?

Question this program, though, and you're a neoimperialist arrogant American. Who says so? Why, young Ashley herself, in one of the comments after the article. What are her exact words?

Ashley Thomas [Moderator] Today 11:17 AM
I am disappointed immensely with the callous judgments being free wheeled here. This project is aimed at the students who are skipping meals, and our 20 UC Davis students who are actually homeless. Our fees have been raised 43%, the economy sucks, and it gets harder and harder to "make it". I would like to run a fiscal evaluation on several of the commentators and wonder why they are all griping? Almost half the world lives on $2 a day, why don't you, instead of berating an altruistic effort, be inspired to look beyond your ultra-nourished, neoimperialist, arrogant US self and reach out to the rest of humanity.

Read that comment, and remember that I am helping pay for her education--if you can call it an education, based on her comments above.

Update, 1/17/10: Instalanche! Welcome, fellow Instapundit and NewsAlert readers! Please feel free to poke around the rest of my site (click on the blog title at the top of this post to do so). Whether you agree or disagree with what you see here, I hope it'll stimulate some thought and discussion.


Rhymes With Right said...

Darren, you were much nicer than I was:

Ashley -- it seems clear that you are not ready for college. And by that I mean you lack the finances to afford college, the emotional maturity to benefit from college, and the intellectual capacity to critically examine the information presented and therefore learn from college.

Get a job for a few years, save up, grow up, and learn what the real world is like before you start ranting about the country that allows for spoiled, over-privileged brats like you to get an education on the back of the very taxpayers who you attack. Better yet -- leave the US that you hate so much and settle in another country more to your liking. I hear North Korea is nice, and fits with your ideology -- plus no one is "ultra-nourished" there.

Darren said...

Just goes to show that I am a nice guy :-)

maxutils said...

When I went to Davis, 20 years ago, tuition was less than 1500. Today, it is closer to 10,000 . . .and housing has gone u similarly much. I think we can afford today's students a bit of sympathy, and we should recognize that while it's true that we still partially help fund higher education, we're not doing a very thorough job of it. I find it difficult to believe that the cost of education could have risen so much in so short a time; likely, we have just transferred the cost from taxpayer to student . . . which seems reasonable unless you believe in public higher education. I do, at least more so than I do bullet trains and the like.

Darren said...

Max, while I agree that the cost is too high, it's hard not to think of today's UCD students as more than a bit privileged. I don't fault them that privilege, but I also don't think they're in the Loaves and Fishes (local homeless aid group) category.

Ellen K said...

I would be curious to know how many owned cars-a huge economic money pit when you consider insurance, maintenance on top of fuel costs. I would wonder if they have laptops, flat screen televisions, IPhones and more. What constitutes poverty in the minds of some, is not neediness, but greed. We are not entitled to the things other people have just because we want them. Some things have to be earned, and while the idea of a free food bank for college students appears noble, it's not going to take some of the bright boys and girls long to figure out that if they don't have to buy groceries, there will be more money to party.

maxutils said...

Yet, at the same time you've got posts discussing whether college is 'worth it' based on the amount of debt they're accumulating. We're doing three things wrong: letting too many unqualified students in; not making it affordable for those who are qualified; spending too much on administration and other non teaching functions.

MiaZagora said...

I think tuition is too high, but I don't think the burden should be on taxpayers to fund it. Of course, I'm not for public funding of education at all. That could be part of what makes it so expensive in the first place.

I used to work when I was in school - both high school and college. I lived at home and commuted - as did most of my friends. I did waitressing, worked as a cashier, and worked for a home health care agency as a sitter. I gained valuable experience and made a little money.

If Ashley is hungry, she should get a job waitressing or cooking. Maybe low blood sugar is the cause of her ridiculous remarks.

PeggyU said...

Cut the spending on education and put it toward free food for the destitute people. Then let them pay for college out of their own pockets. If there is really a choice to be made between filling their stomachs and filling their minds, they should put the education on the back burner until they have saved for it. People who really want an education WILL work for it.

Better yet, if people look for alternatives to traditional college, maybe tuition will drop as the demand goes down. Another benefit - students will think about whether their required courses reflect reality, and maybe some of the ridiculous requirements (for example, diversity education)will be dropped. This would certainly save students money. For example, my son had to take a course to meet the diversity requirement. His intended major is in engineering. He took a literature/composition course on women's lit (not a first choice, but it was what was available when he registered). Tuition runs roughly $100/credit at the community college he is currently attending, and this was a five-credit class. I can't help but think that $500 could have been better spent, but they have you over a barrel if you want the degree. I also know that the $500 he spent for this class was only the part of the expense we saw; the state subsidized this as well, since he paid in state tuition. We are trying to cut costs where we can, so he is obtaining a transfer degree at a lower-cost institution. Even so, the cost of community college has risen dramatically. We are paying out of pocket as he goes, and he is contributing. Fortunately, we don't have to make the choice between food and education - but if we did,I would rather he postpone the education than beg for food. That is just demeaning.

W.C. Varones said...

We obviously need to extend the federal school lunch program to age 25.

Anonymous said...

My very responsible college student daughter often laments the absolute insane amount of money schools spend on the "overly" pampered students in order to entice these "overly" pampered students. New high tech dorms with amenities galore, ultra high tech exercise facilities and anything that makes it easier for Mommies and Daddies to sent little darlings away. It is excessive and has nothing to do with education and all to do with keeping the client coming.

Radish said...

"our 20 UC Davis students who are actually homeless."

She has to be making that up.

Steve said...

Why are people like this going to college? If they want to learn there are so many more sources now then even 20 years ago that there is little limitation to the knowledge you can get for free.

I'm currently watching a lecture section of Yale's European History - all the while thinking how much do these kids pay to here this very average lecture?

The credential comes at a very high price and is of little comparative advantage anymore.

So, the knowledge is free or pretty close to free and paper is agreed to be worth less and less. We can only hope some other approach will catch on soon.

The Ghost said...

"Neoimperialist." Doesn't the word just reek of undergrad LA?

Also, I like how "neoimperialist" is the moniker she chooses for someone who cannot sufficiently "look beyond your ultra-nourished, [...] arrogant [...] self and reach out to the rest of humanity." Whatever happened to "Words Mean Things?" I guess we can now file the word "imperialist" with fascist and racist as words that have no meaning whatsoever beyond "something I don't like."

Incidentally, I don't doubt there college kids who could use food, since the balancing act of college has become increasingly precarious for many students. For example, I did not live on campus, so I had to commute, and so if I had run out of money, I would have failed my classes and been left with no degree, no money, and no means to remove my enormous debt except suicide. I doubt that applies to many students living in an on-campus dorm, however... But if people are willing to donate, I say let em. It's not like very much 'charity' winds up in the hands of the destitute anyway.

Anonymous said...

The G.I.Bill is nice this tme of year.

JeremiadBullfrog said...

Ah yes, the unthinking kneejerk false dichotomy of contemporary Liberalism: If you question the efficacy of her program, it's clear proof that you are never generous to anyone anywhere out of your own personal resources (financial or otherwise).

In other words, if you don't agree with her, you're a bad person.

Unfortunately, I have a hunch that even if you were to demonstrate to her that this is what her response boils down to, she would nevertheless insist that, yes, if you disagree, then you are a bad person.

Anonymous said...

It's a bit unfortunate that the author and a few commentators have chosen to ignore the substance of this student's argument to focus on her chosen pseudonym.

The problem is not that Ms. "Neoimperialist" is taking advantage of the largess of the people of California. Rather the problem is the "adult" voters of the Golden State have chosen to severely underfund the very institutes many attended when the State did subsidize university education.

The underfunding of California public education began in the 90's while the "adults" were creating the current pension crisis and has continued through the "adults" thrashing of the housing market.

Since the older "adults" of California have failed to act responsibly it seems unreasonable to focus solely on the actions of California's newest adults.

In short: Pot meet Kettle

maxutils said...

Anonymous . . .
Yup. The last thing we need is to encourage the less motivated to come by using frills. If you're a private university, fine . . . but public schools should be bare necessities and economy - driven. And this comes from a public university grad -- I don't want bells and whistles, iI

David said...

Given the simple fact that most college students nowadays graduate no better off than those who are profoundly illiterate (nearly 70% can't read well enough to understand a bus schedule or a newspaper editorial--or couldn't at the time of the last national Adult Literacy Survey) and fail the ICI's simple civics quiz, and THEN end up thens of thousands of dollars in debt for their (often) worthless degrees, one simply has to wonder what most of them are doing going to college to begin with.

pashley said...

I think she is speaking and acting in an economically intelligent fashion. She is a "rentier", lives off of government benefits, either directly or through subsidized education. And so her language and philosophy is that of a person living off the state and so must fashion an argument that justifies that argument.

So don't beat up on her. On the other hand, those whose livlihood is the private sector, but ideology is in the redistributive state, they simply baffle me. I'm thinking of private sector journalists, but countless others.

skeneogden said...

My simple solution - turn in all the empty beer cans from the frat parties for their CRV and you could feed the multitudes.

Ellen K said...

I'd like to clarify something. At one point my husband and I were helping all three of our children to go to college. Two ultimately graduated, one decided college wasn't for him. That being said, college tuition is not the problem. What is the problem are the ancillary costs like housing-required on campus for many freshmen, fees-which often fund programs that the average student never uses or sees, and books which are a scam unto themselves. The fees are the one area that administrations could control. But they don't Nobody sees it or asks, so it's an easy tax to levy. I don't have to tell you that much of this largesses ends up going to fund research and athletic programs. These are the same programs that claim loudly to be self-sustaining. Is it any wonder that so many middle class families are seeking other alternatives? It appears that most univesities see the middle class as a way to make kick backs from student loan programs. We have students who are graduating with the equivilent of a small mortgage on their backs. This is no way to start life on your own.

AngelaC. said...

I am a Student at UC Davis who is a former ward of the state. I worked incredibly hard in high school getting straight A's and went directly into college. I have no financial support from parents and pay for everything on my own. I work 32 hours a week on top of going to school and when I am finished paying my rent and my bills, I survive on 130$ a month. That is for food, gas, basic necesities, and god forbid there be any emergencies. There have been multiple occasions where I did not have enough money to eat for the rest of the month and feel that this service has allowed me the basic comfort of a meal a day. I will guarentee that anyone who is against this service has never known the unfortunate reality of not knowing how you are going to feed yourself, yet sit here and judge while they enjoy a full stomach.
Furthermore, for one to be so cynical as to assume that students will take advantage of this is disapointing. I have found the students on campus to be incredibly aware of social problems and understand the importance of having these outlets. One could ask how would it be possible for soup kitchens to be viable if everyone could just walk in and usurp the resources. This, of course, is not the reality because people are more understanding and ethical than that. It is sad that you do not see it.

Darren said...

You're wrong--I've been hungry. I didn't eat ramen for over 20 years because I lived on it for 3 meals a day in the Colorado winter.

You claim I'm cynical about students' taking advantage. I think you're naive. I guess we can just volley names back and forth.

That you are needy, and that this helps you, isn't my point. Every program helps someone (hopefully), but that isn't satisfactory justification for every single program.

I'm going to be blunt: UC Davis is a /choice/ you've made. There are more inexpensive alternatives. To attend a premiere university (scholarship? you didn't mention paying tuition), work 32 hrs a week, and complain about money--it rubs me the wrong way.

Congrats on the straight A's. That's how I made my way into college as well.

AngelaC. said...

So basically what your saying is if you are low income then you do not deserve a college education. How do you expect poor people to make something of themselves? Everyone deserves an education, and you shouldn't have to be rich in this country to afford a college education. I am not complaining About struggling- It is my choice to take this route because I want to learn and educate myself. I have every right to be here, (and by the way, the food pantry operates on donations). Many of the students at UCDavis are witnessing their families being evicted, are homeless, and are trying to get a degree to support their loved ones. A degree is supposed to offer someone a better life.... one should not have to be rich to achieve this. When you tell people that they must be of a particular income/socio-economic status to attend college, what you are doing is directly shaping the demographic of who will be getting a college education in this country. This goes against the creed of public education. This service supports those students who are overcoming adversity.

Darren said...

Your very first sentence above casts you as either a fool or someone who intentionally misreads what I've written. You can create your own straw man arguments in order to tear them down, but you get no respect from me for doing so.

Perhaps you're too emotionally invested in this to speak with me logically about it, and that's about as charitable a response from me as you're going to get.

Don't forget for a moment that *I* am paying for your degree.

Ashley Thomas said...

I am the "young Ashley" in question, and would like a moment to speak for myself, in context this time. I can answer your many musings of who I might be. I am not, as quoted, a student who was planning to use the pantry, though I did, I was a student on a team that saw a problem and set out to fix it. I am a first generation college student from a poor background. I defied the odds and cultural norms and fought my way through community college to have the privilege to attend an UC school. I had a lot of help and always honored it in my actions and service towards others. Any hand up or out I was given, I always set forth to give back ten fold. I did work hard though. Often, I took an overload of units and held two jobs and many internships. I have only had a car once in my 26 years, for 6 months, it was almost as old as I was at the time- given to me by my elderly neighbors for always helping them. When it died, I biked a 20 mile circuit several times a week to attend two campuses, work, and get home often very late at night. I do have a laptop. I was very lucky and qualified for a loan for it. I also did enjoy an occasional Starbucks and did shop at the Nugget. I was "poor", but our country offers even the poorest among us to enjoy enormous luxuries. For that I am grateful. I did take my bike to every store in town to get that weeks sale items, even taking the bus out to the next town to shop at a grocery outlet. It was nice to have a service like The Pantry on campus that afforded me supplies that I didn't have to take so much time obtaining. I also do not understand why you placed my comment out of context. You made no mention of the verbally violent, accusatory, and sometimes cruel comments that mine was aimed at. It seems you placed it there for opportunistic provocation. I do not think that questioning the students who would come to our counter with Starbuck's in hand is a bad thing- I questioned them openly. We were there for the few that needed us. Exploitation happens, but that is no reason to stop, only re-evaluate how to best serve those in need. I think it is arrogant to snub those in need based on prejudice about who attends college. I think it is neo-imperialist to expect people to pull themselves up by their bootstraps when our straps have become so short. I think it is ignorant to tell me to work before I went to school when in our country now every other college student is unemployed or underemployed. I would have been competing with people with a four year degree for the same job at the supermarket or fast food chain. How many years would I have had to have worked to save up more than $12,000 a year to go to school? I do not think education should be free, or easy, it was neither for me. While this bit exists here for you to feel just a bit better about yourself after dragging fictional me through the mud, I will go on finding problems and fixing them. I am sad though that you never bothered to find me before tearing me apart. I am a good person with good intentions. Yes, a little angry, yes still quite young, but my heart is good, and even if you felt I was a little misguided, I am sad you felt the need to set me up for bait.

Darren said...

Ashley, you were doing moderately well, and then you went for the victim/sympathy card. You went for the neo-imperialist name-calling again--is that some cool term you learned at Davis?--and then suggest I'm dragging you through the mud and/or tearing you apart.

I don't question your good, bleeding heart. I did, and still do, question whether such a program is appropriate on a UC campus.

You can call me a neo-imperialist (to paraphrase from The Princess Bride, I do not think it means what you think it means) all day long, your comments I quoted (without editing!) speak for themselves, and they don't speak highly. Your hard-luck story speaks well for your drive and ingenuity, but that it doesn't give you a pass when you're wrong, or naive, or just plain silly.

I'm curious about one thing: which empire is it that you think I'm supporting? Which colonies am I "oppressing"?

You're a bleeding-heart leftie, Ashley. And that's OK if that's what you want to be, I guess, but I'm not going to support you in that endeavor, or spare you the hurt feelings from pointing out when you're wrong.