Bri Chance, a fourth-semester music education and opera performance major, and Neha Kataria, a fourth-semester political science major and parliamentarian of the Undergraduate Student Government, spoke about the teaming up of Creating Caring Communities and USG to assist students facing housing and food insecurity on campus.
Chance and Kataria began by explaining the role of CCC and the purpose it serves. Kataria said the club works to help students facing various housing and food issues while also furthering the conversation.
“CCC is a club that works first-hand with students that are homeless, family-estranged, food insecure or in the foster care system. I think more attention needs to be put on this club because they do a lot when it comes to giving out food, giving people resources and also just talking to people,” Kataria said.
Kataria said people must stress that not every student at the University of Connecticut has an ideal family situation. She said this significant population of students is not receiving necessary support.
“I think that this is something that we need to stress more—that not everyone has that ideal family situation—and we’re not just looking at five students,” Kataria said. “We’re looking at a large portion of students who aren’t getting that support.”
Chance went on to say her own experiences as a homeless student showed the situation was not ideal. She said the environment does not feel welcoming and cited a drop in food quality when students did not have access to a meal plan.
“In my own experience of being a homeless student and staying here over break, I can tell you it’s not the most ideal situation,” Chance said. “It doesn’t feel welcoming. If you can’t afford the meal plan and you decide to opt-out but you live here still, there’s still that issue of ‘where am I going to get food?’”
“Normalizing the conversation, that’s definitely step one … I think when people think of the groups… they have this idea of what it looks to them, which is really different than what it actually is and what it means to be in these positions on UConn’s campus.”Neha Kataria, Fourth-semester political science major, parliamentarian of UConn USG
Over the previous winter break, CCC and USG held the Husky Market, using a total of $5,000 from both organizations to purchase various products for students on campus. Chance said their primary goal with this event was to support students who were facing food insecurities in the difficult winter months.
“Our goal with this whole Husky Market was so that students who decided to opt-out of a meal plan or were living maybe off-campus but were still having issues with food insecurity, they could have access not only to food but to fresh food, nutritious food that would be sustainable throughout the winter months,” Chance said.
Looking to the future, Chance and Kataria stressed the importance of normalizing conversations surrounding housing and food insecurity. Kataria said these discussions were important because many people have preconceptions of housing and food insecure students that are often unfounded.
“Normalizing the conversation, that’s definitely step one,” Kataria said. “I think when people think of the groups… they have this idea of what it looks to them, which is really different than what it actually is and what it means to be in these positions on UConn’s campus.”
Chance listed other important steps she felt would help address these issues. She said in addition to normalizing the conversation, UConn should provide resources like subsidized housing and food banks for students to use.
“I think… going to different offices on campus and saying, ‘hey, you need to be trained on how to work with independent students, how to work with homeless students… We’re asking for you to provide actual solutions, to provide subsidized housing, to provide some sort of community house or some type of food bank on campus.’”
Kataria also said UConn should establish a permanent role in the university to assist students facing these challenges. She said Alex Katz, program coordinator for the Rising Scholars program, currently fills the role, but a permanent position is needed.
“There is one person working on these populations, and it’s Alex Katz,” Kataria said. “I think there needs to be a permanent role that works with students that are food insecure, and who face housing insecurity.”
When asked for her message to students who may be facing these issues, Chance desired to remind them they are not alone. She said other students have faced these challenges and will continue to face them until serious change is made.
“As someone who’s been through this first-hand, what I would have wanted to hear is: You’re not alone… Out of the 28,000 students that attend the University of Connecticut, trust me, you’re not alone,” Chance said. “There are people that have gone through this, there are people that are going through this, and there are going to be people after you that continue to go through this until there’s systematic change.”