Produces boxes ready for students to pick up at Harbor Advantage.        Photo by Melanie Morales

By Melanie Morales

Sometimes the hardest question you ask yourself everyday is, “What am I going to eat?” There are people in the world who unfortunately have a challenge getting food. Los Angeles Harbor College has programs such as Next up and Harbor Advantage to help students who are dealing with such food insecurity.

Next Up which was formerly Cooperating Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support (CAFYES), provides a pantry of non-perishable foods since summer 2016. The food pantry includes different things at different times but usually consist of; water, juice, Gatorade, chips, Cup Noodles, and protein bars. The young students can easily access this everyday. Tracye Jones, EOPS Next Up coordinator counselor said, “Some of my kids here are in a shelter, I do what I can to help.” Life is not so simple, not to adults and especially not to kids. As far as goals, Next up is trying to create a mobile food bank for the campus at large.

Not only does Next Up provide food for the youth they have other benefits
which include: tutoring, counseling, grants, transportation assistance, and meal vouchers. The program is eligible for foster youth who have emancipated from the child welfare system or if they were in care for at least one day of their sixteenth birthday or have a current case open qualify for the program.

Harbor Advantage (SSA 113) is giving out free food every Tuesday between 3 to 4:45 p.m. 1 out of 7 people today do not have access to nutritional food. On the other hand, 40% roughly 150,000 tons of food produced is wasted. Growing up you have probably heard the words “Don’t be wasteful.” Elika Dadsetan, the director of Harbor Advantage introduced Food Forward to campus. “When I was working with Valley College I was responsible for supporting students who were experiencing homelessness so I was trying to find the different resources there were in the community for them and found Food Forward,” said Dadsetan. Food forward, a non profit organization, fights hunger and prevents food waste.

This organization collects any extra fruits or vegetables that would be wasted or thrown out from private residences, public orchards, wholesale markets and farmers markets. After doing so, they redonate the produce to eight different counties in Southern California. Harbor Advantage staff use their own personal vehicles to pick up the produce from Torrance farmers market.

Harbor Advantage once had a program called Motivational Mondays where free snacks were given on every Monday. “We realised how many students would come by and grab something and often times students will say, ‘This is the only thing I’ve eaten all day,’ and whether or not it was like an actual need, we recognized that students will do better academically if they are fueled.” said Dadsetan. She went on to say, “The intention was really for the students but we left it open for everyone on campus. We don’t want students or anybody to feel like there is a stigma around needing anything especially food.” It is free of charge.

All Harbor Advantage asks is you sign your name, bring your own bag, and enjoy. For more information contact EOPS counselor Tracye Jones, 310-2334552 or Harbor Advantage director Elika Dadsetan, 310233-4449.