AS Food Pantry Budget in Question

Photo courtesy of UCSD Communications.

The 2017-18 Triton Food Pantry budget is in question due to an ongoing dispute between the six college councils and ASUCSD, who could not agree on the amount of funding college councils should contribute to the pantry.

During the AS Council Meeting on May 3, college council representatives proposed funding the pantry at $1000 per college council, in an attempt to show solidarity between councils and allocate funding fairly. However, this proposal directly conflicts with that of current ASUCSD Executives, who requested an allocation of $3000 per college council.

Revelle College Council President Alexis Villalobos-Rodriguez said that college councils have internally come to an agreement on the pantry funding allocation, planning to allocate $1000 per council, instead of an initially proposed $3000, so that all college councils could contribute the exact same amount.

“Each college puts in their grain of sand,” he said, referring to how each college should allocate an equivalent share.

During the AS Council Meeting on Wednesday April 26, AS President Daniel Juarez requested for all college councils to contribute $3000 each to the pantry, but Thurgood Marshall College Student Council (TMCSC) said that it could allocate a maximum one thousand dollars.

“We [TMCSC] don’t have a spare $3000 every year,” said Marshall Council Chair Daniel Walker. “That one thousand is still a significant portion of our budget, and more than the percentage AS allocates in their budget, [which is] 1.5 percent.”

Juarez and Financial Controller Justin Pennish proposed that the remaining $2000 be pulled from ASUCSD’s contribution to TMCSC’s annual Cultural Celebration to compensate for the council’s smaller contribution. Although Juarez promised to assist in finding funding alternatives for the Cultural Celebration, ERC Council President Chase DiBenedetto believes that this isn’t an adequate alternative.

“Marshall would still only be pulling $1000 from their budget and they would be losing $2000 from one of their oldest annual programs,” DiBenedetto said.

DiBenedetto felt that the request for $3000 per council was done with no clear consensus between the College Councils and the ASUCSD Executives.

“This was a complete blindside to the college councils, because the last conversation we had [last week] with President Juarez was positive,” DiBenedetto said. It was her impression that ASUCSD and the College Councils “all came to terms with the fact that $1000 was most likely the amount. It was quick and easy.”

The amount that college councils would contribute to the pantry has been disputed for the past two ASUCSD Council meetings. ASUCSD meeting minutes detailing the discussion should be found here, but no minutes have been publicly posted for any of the meetings from the 2016-17 school year.

Student Council of ERC Rep Rachel Gale was upset that the AS Executives declined to have a vote on College Council’s new agreement. “I’ve never seen this level of disrespect in all my time in college council,” said Gale.

“People in [student] government are the only ones who know about these resources,” she said, referring to her perception that it is a student representative’s responsibility to educate students about resources such as the Food Pantry.

The May 3 meeting concluded abruptly at 8:45 p.m., when ASUCSD Director Heather Belk pointed out that not enough AS student representatives were present to continue the session. No resolution was reached on the pantry budget.

This was the last meeting for all college council senators, who termed out at the end of the Senate meeting and will be replaced this upcoming Wednesday. Juarez, Campus Affairs Vice President Sabrina Ekdahl, and appointed External Vice President Nicolas Monteiro term out week eight.

On April 26, there was debate over whether the decrease in College Council funding would put the pantry budget in a deficit, but Pennish emphasized that this is unlikely.

“The Pantry will incur no deficit this year, and is not projected to incur one next year,” Pennish said. “The Pantry is 100% financially sustainable at this time.”

Ultimately, Juarez said that the vote was “more trouble than it was worth” during the May 3rd ASUCSD Council Meeting and has begun to look at alternative funding solutions for the pantry.

“[T]his partnership was proving itself to be more deteriorating than useful,” Juarez said. “Whether future collaborations happen next year will be up to the next AS leadership and the new college council, but my only recommendation would be to stay away from monetary support from college councils and be a bit more creative as to how that collaboration would look like.”

Established in 2015, the Triton Food Pantry provides students with food relief and is a part of a UC-wide effort to ensure all students’ basic needs are met. Incoming ASUCSD President and current Triton Food Pantry Manager Lesly Figueroa told The Triton that the pantry has experienced a 60 percent increase in visitors from 2016 to 2017. According to a 2016 survey commissioned by the University Office of the President, four in ten UC students struggle with food insecurity.

“Students shouldn’t be paying for it, but it still needs to run,” Figueroa said.

Without the $18,000 from College Councils, the pantry is projected to incur a $7,000 deficit in 2017-2018 and a deficit of $55,5998.96 during the 2018-2019 school year.

The project 2017-2020 food pantry budget.

The projected 2017-2020 food pantry budget.

“The budget is a flexible document that frequently takes into account new in formation,” Pennish said. He also suggested that next year’s pantry operations will likely be fully covered by groups like the Student Fee Advisory Committee, College Deans and Provosts, alumni, UCSD Student Foundation, individual college councils, faculty, and staff donors. Pennish said that other funding sources are likely to be realized soon, but no concrete updates could be shared at this time.

“AS is looking years ahead, whereas other groups are not there yet,” Pennish said.

Mo Elew is a staff writer at The Triton.

May 9, 1 a.m.: This article was updated with a quote from Daniel Juarez elaborating on her opinion.