OPINION: Why UP students need a basic needs program

By Stephanie Vasquez | March 19, 2024 9:00am

Photo courtesy of Stephanie Vasquez.

StockUP was a 100% free resource for all UP students, faculty and staff where produce, toiletries and other household essentials were available for those who needed them. During my first year (fall 2021), students, faculty and staff would gather at the old social work house to grab any necessities. Since then, the StockUP pop-ups have moved to different locations and have slowly been declining. The university’s StockUP pop-up food pantry has been on hiatus since fall 2023. This past school year, there have been no pop-up food pantries on campus due to a restructuring of the program.

Other Universities in Oregon receive a state grant that is to be used to hire a "benefits navigator." This is essentially a person who is employed by the state with the purpose of helping students apply and receive assistance from a benefits program. I spoke with one of the founders of the University of Oregon’s Basic Needs Program who told me that they use the grant to employ a “benefits coordinator,” and the provided supplies for students and for infrastructure support come from their administration and student government. Infrastructure support refers to things like retrofitting their food pantry as well as being able to buy laptops, monitors and desks for their employees.

The University of Portland falls into a place of limbo because, as a private institution, the state does not provide them any funding for these specific resources. The university has its own resources that can assist students facing resource insecurity if requested, but it is not enough for students solely to rely on.

My experience of being an ASUP senator has provided me with so much more knowledge about the inner workings of the university. I understand that budgets are tight, but students’ lives are already jam-packed with classes, clubs and jobs — they should not be worrying about where their next meal is coming from.

Food insecurity is an issue faced on this campus that must be addressed and aided. We must find a way to address this issue with the help of the administration, campus ministry, outside grants and possibly our own ASUP funds. This is a topic of discussion currently being had by this year’s senate since this past fall.

A basic needs program should be an extension of StockUP. It should provide basic necessities to all students, no questions asked. Our goal for this project will be to have a permanent free food pantry on campus that also carries free hygiene products. Once that is established, we plan to continue growing the program in areas where students feel they need support (e.g., basic needs advising, housing resources, school supplies funding, etc.).

As a student that has faced food insecurity in the past, I understand how vital accessible resources are. These goals align with UP President Dr. Kelly’s Strategic Plan of promoting community health. We must ensure that all students have timely, meaningful access to wellness and mental health services, support, and programming. It is extremely important that we implement a basic needs program to better the university.

As a member of ASUP, I have heard your concerns about bringing back StockUP. Although at times it may feel like it, I can assure you that your concerns do not go unnoticed by our student government. This is something that many students have spoken to me and other ASUP representatives about. We are listening and I agree that this is a student need. I urge you to keep expressing concerns to us senators and e-board members. We were voted into our positions by you to work for you. I will continue to keep advocating for students’ basic needs.

Stephanie Vasquez is a junior at the University of Portland. She can be reached at vasqeuzs25@up.edu.

Have something to say about this? We’re dedicated to publishing a wide variety of viewpoints, and we’d like to hear from you. Voice your opinion in The Beacon.