November 22, 2017

Addressing Food Insecurity

Dear ArtCenter Community,  

As we prepare for the upcoming Thanksgiving Day holiday, ArtCenter recognizes that some of our students experience food insecurity. As we strive to achieve excellence in education and build an inclusive, empathetic community, we must rely on our combined efforts to help all students succeed.

What is “food insecurity?”

Food insecurity is defined as the economic and social condition (usually at the household level) of limited or uncertain access to adequate food—enough good, healthy, culturally appropriate food to sustain an active healthy life.

Food insecurity is different from “hunger,” which is an individual-level physiological condition that may or may not result from food insecurity. In 2016, it was estimated that in the United States, 41.2 million Americans lived in food-insecure households, including 28.3 million adults and 12.9 million children. It is important to note that the majority of people who are food insecure do not live in poverty, and the majority of people who live in poverty are not food insecure.

Many students facing food insecurity may be forced to make the difficult choice between buying food and purchasing supplies, or buying food and paying rent.

What can ArtCenter do to help students who are experiencing food insecurity?

We will be developing and expanding basic support services pioneered by the Center for the Student Experience (CSE) to assist as many students experiencing food insecurity as possible:

  • SoGo Cards: Students who need immediate relief may ask a staff member in the CSE or a staff member in Financial Aid (during regular business hours) for a pre-loaded SoGo Card that can be used for any Sodexo transaction on campus (including the Hillside cafeteria and the micro-markets at South Campus). This program has been available for several terms and we are now expanding the outreach so that students who need immediate relief may ask the Coordinator in his/her academic department for a SoGo card.
  • Nutrition Bars: With endorsement and planning work completed by the Council for Diversity and Inclusion, ArtCenter will be launching an additional program to stock containers of nutrition bars that will be available for free on a “grab-and-go” basis in several locations around both campuses to students who need immediate relief. Details will be announced when those locations are stocked. 
  • Food Pantry: Students who need short-term relief may request access to the food pantry in the CSE and pack any amount of non-perishable groceries to take with them. The James Lemont Fogg Library at Hillside Campus also has an area they use to put out food donations for any ArtCenter degree program student.
  • Financial Review: Degree program students who need longer-term assistance should be referred to Financial Aid. In addition to its current services of reviewing finances and aid options with all students, as well as distributing SoGo Cards to students in immediate need, Financial Aid is developing a new program to help students assess and plan their finances for longer periods of time. Students who are identified as needing greater support to meet the challenges of food insecurity may be provided food-specific aid in the form of SoGo cards pre-loaded with greater amounts for sustained and continued use and re-use. Details about this review and additional assistance will be announced at a later date. 

Please note that none of these programs and services are being funded by student tuition dollars, but through the generous support of a philanthropic donor.

How can I help?

All members of the campus community are asked to be mindful of the current programs in place and to pay attention to future announcements about other services. Please refer students in need to the best and appropriate places for help and support. 

  • Faculty: Please announce in your classes that services to assist students experiencing food insecurity do exist at ArtCenter, and refer any individual students who identify themselves to you to these resources.
  • Staff: Please notice any students who seem to be struggling or who identify their food insecurities and remind them that ArtCenter recognizes this reality and is prepared to help by directing them to the appropriate resources.
  • Students: Help your peers, especially those who may seem reluctant to ask for help, by reminding them that ArtCenter has services to help those experiencing food insecurity, and refer any students who identify themselves to you to these resources. 

Remember that food insecurity is a life circumstance that can be related to economy, access, social class, race, ethnicity, gender, family structure, age, employment, ability, mental and physical health, etc. and therefore it can be more hurtful than helpful if you make assumptions about anyone who asks for help to manage food insecurity.

We recommend that you listen carefully and compassionately affirm the realities that someone is facing, and then offer assistance by explaining some of the College’s resources candidly and openly, and perhaps following up with that student later. Shaming someone with judgment or presumption only adds bias and mistrust to an already delicate and difficult situation. We want all students to know that we support their education, development and well-being.

On behalf of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion, thank you in advance for your support of this important initiative.


Lorne M. Buchman
President, ArtCenter College of Design

Members of the Council on Diversity and Inclusion Food Insecurity working group:

Ann Field
Karen Hofmann
Dennis Phillips
Ray Quirolgico
Dana Walker-Juick
Everard Williams

Additional Resources

For more information about food insecurity, read:

United States Department of Agriculture

Feeding America

Food Forward