Collective boost for Slug Support

UC Santa Cruz celebrates the success of its Giving Tuesday fundraiser focused on students' basic needs

Slug support staff and shelves of food in food pantry
Slug Support staff, Estefania Rodriguez, DD Setness, Alex Torres, Mariah Lyons, and Kednel Jean in one of the campus food pantries. Photo courtersy of Slug Support.
UC Santa Cruz’s first campuswide Giving Tuesday fundraiser on Dec. 3 unleashed the combined support of hundreds of donors to benefit Slug Support, a key element of the campus's Basic Needs program.

At the close of the 24-hour, online event, 447 contributors had given a combined $49,072. The result is almost double Slug Support’s fundraising in all of the 2018–19 fiscal year, said Mariah Lyons, the program’s director.

“We’re thrilled with the generosity and with the number of donors,” Lyons said. “It’s going to mean a lot for students who need ongoing food support.”

Hunger on college campuses is a growing concern across the United States, including in the University of California system. Some estimates indicate that more than 40% of UC students face some degree of food insecurity.

The program will use the fund for its food assistance offerings, including:
  • grocery store gift cards for those facing short-term challenges
  • meal swipes for the dining halls
  • direct financial awards for ongoing food insecurity
  • food pantries and the Cowell Coffee Shop, which has been transformed into basic needs café for students, providing free coffee and tea and a food pantry
Slug Support also helps refer students who qualify to apply for CalFresh food assistance.

Giving Tuesday funds also will help undocumented, international, and graduate students, as well as others who often don’t qualify for CalFresh. Access to nutritious food is critical for academic success, Lyons said.

“The ‘starving student’ narrative that eating ramen three times a day is acceptable—or even a badge of honor—has been normalized,” she said, adding that the adequacy of that legendary mono-diet does not bear out in nutritional science. “That’s not brain food.”

The fundraiser employed the same online networking strategy that has contributed to the growing success of the campus’s annual Giving Day, the next iteration of which will be April 22. Chancellor Cynthia Larive congratulated the alumni, staff, students, faculty, and friends who activated their networks.

“This is a wonderful demonstration of the power of community,” Larive said. “At UC Santa Cruz we all pull for each other.”

The online-only event piggybacked on the increasingly popular nationwide Giving Tuesday, encouraging gifts to charitable causes during the post-Thanksgiving shopping blitz. Raising funds for student food support seemed especially appropriate following a national holiday celebrating food, family, opportunity, and abundance, according to organizers. Emily Todd, assistant director of digital and annual giving, led the project.

“There’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a bunch of days when we tend to spend on ourselves,” Todd said. “This is a day when we give back.”

This year’s result provides a strong benchmark and data that the campus will use to raise even more funds in the future.

“I’m excited to see how we can use this information to have an even more successful day next year, and help even more students who are struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “I think there’s room to grow.”

Learn more about assistance available for students by emailing or visiting the Dean of Students office at Hahn Student Services 9 a.m.–5 p.m. weekdays. For help applying for CalFresh, email

The Cowell Coffee Shop offers food and coffee on a non-transactional basis. Hours: 8 a.m.–8 p.m. weekdays and Saturdays noon–5 p.m.

Students are also welcome to visit any of the food pantries on campus.