ELAC’s REDIO leads the fight against student hunger

By Juan Calvillo

The East Los Angeles College Foundation recently created the Resource Economic Development and Innovation Office ( REDIO ) to solve the long-term issues of hunger, housing, transportation and clothing among students.

The Associated Student Union is working with the school to solve similar problems.

The issues that affect community college students have been written about before. A Los Angeles Times article from June 29 reported that  one in five students were homeless.The survey by the Los Angeles Community College District board of trustees also found that close to two thirds experienced hunger on campus after a survey was done by the LACCD board of trustees, the conclusion was that one in five students was homeless. Further information also stated that close to two thirds  experienced “ food insecurity.”

An ASU survey found that 70 percent of students experienced hunger on campus. And despite the statisitics of one in five being homeless, “Here in East L.A. it’s likely higher than other areas because our community is even more urban. I think it’s closer to two out of five possibly  are homeless,” REDIO dean Paul De La Cerda said.

While ASU is preparing to do its part in helping student needs, the ELAC Foundation through REDIO has its own answer in the form of the Transforming Lives “Annual Giving” Campaign . It plans on tackling four specific needs of students: hunger, housing, transportation and clothing.

The TLC program started in November and is focused on raising money through donations from ELAC employees and the community. De La Cerda said that 100 percent of the donations by ELAC employees through payroll deductions will go directly to helping students. “We are proud of that commitment,” De La Cerda said.

The ELAC Foundation has helped students through its scholarship programs over the years. But when it came to emergency situations, De La Cerda said the ELAC Foundation was helping students before the L.A. Times article was published. De La Cerda said that ASU’s survey and the L.A. Times article galvanized the ELAC Foundation’s intent to do something more substantial.

“The Foundation’s main purpose is to serve and support you, the student. You’re our client. You are why we are here. We exist because of you,” De La Cerda said. To accomplish this, De La Cerda said the TLC project was meant to create a long-term solution to the problems facing ELAC students. De La Cerda said the ELAC Foundation uses a top investment firm that diversifies its investments and that the money raised is allocated into a “nest egg,” or an endowment.

In the long term the money can accumulate and the return on the investment can be used continually to help students, he said.

One such donation was from ELAC’s Physics Department chairperson, Professor Viken Kiledjian. De La Cerda said that Kiledjian made a $1.000 donation to the TLC project. More employees are acknowledging the TLC program which has doubled since its inception in November, Although the TLC program is still new, De La Cerda said the program will take new forms on campus.

One project De La Cerda has REDIO putting together is in the beginning stages and would help with food insecurity. The idea of it is reminiscent of the Ice Bucket Challenge from years ago he said, and is going out to local restaurants who would provide meals. The project is being called the 1,000 Meal Challenge.

The challenge would be to offer 1,000 healthy and affordable meals. A certificate would be given to students in need that could be transferred to a participating restaurant. The restaurant would then be reimbursed by the ELAC Foundation through the TLC program. De La Cerda said they would need a total of five restaurants to participate. The owner of Gallo Grill and Moles La Tia are the first join on.

As for ASU, Chief Justice Destiny Hernandez said that although nothing is set in stone, ASU and school administrators are working together on solutions. ASU has plans to start a food pantry, but Hernandez said, they “don’t anticipate kicking off the food pantry this year. We are currently going through paperwork needed to open this. “Once we have our proposal done, we may look to students for help in executing the plans.”

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