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food distribution

COVID-19 has exacerbated household food insecurity for the overall population with nearly one in four households experiencing food insecurity this year. Recent research indicates college students have been particularly hard hit with approximately 60% experiencing some form of basic needs insecurity.

The University of Hawaiʻi responded to the pandemic in March with the launch of the Urgent Student Relief Fund, which raised more than $1 million for students across all 10 campuses. Even before COVID-19 hit, basic student needs were a major concern, as evidenced by the creation of the UH System Basic Needs Committee (UHBNC), composed of representatives from every campus, to better understand and address food and other forms of basic needs insecurities in the student population.

Based on prior studies in Hawaiʻi and the available national data, UHBNC anticipates high future rates of basic needs insecurity in the UH System, and was recently awarded a $200,000 grant from the Harold K. L. Castle Foundation to develop systemic solutions. The Lumina Foundation also supported the effort with a $25,000 award.

UH comprehensive clearinghouse

The committee plans to hire a project coordinator to assist with conducting a comprehensive survey of basic needs resources available at each campus. This will help identify key gaps in food security and basic needs services to students and develop a comprehensive online clearinghouse (similar to one at The California State University) that centralizes information on available services and directs students, faculty and staff to available resources.

UHBNC Chair Albie Miles said, “Many students are struggling and it is critical that the university begin to address student basic needs insecurity in more systemic ways. The importance of student basic needs security can not be overstated with multiple studies now showing food insecurity alone negatively impacts academic performance, mental health and graduation rates. This collaborative work is key not only to the success of our students, but to the well being of our community.”

The committee is also committed to developing a basic needs statement that contains a link to the clearinghouse of resources and would be highly recommended for inclusion in all course syllabi for classes taught throughout the UH System. This would broadly disseminate information about resources to meet basic student needs.

Resources available

In the interim, the UHBNC developed an initial list of resources available to assist students in accessing resources.

National and statewide basic needs resources:

If you would like to make a gift and support UH student basic needs visit

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