The Basic Needs Collective at the U

Students, are you facing food insecurity, unstable housing, or other forms of financial stress? Are physical or mental health struggles interfering with your academic success? The new Basic Needs Collective has formed to be your solution.

A survey gathering feedback about a potential Basic Needs Center occurred in Fall 2019. Respondents included a convenience sample of students, staff, and community members. Forty-two percent indicated that they did not have enough food for the day on at least one occasion, 8% noted that they had used the Feed U Food Pantry and 14% reported they had experienced housing insecurity. Informally, students have shared increased need for support around finances, interpersonal violence and mental health as a result of the global pandemic.

To respond to these needs, the (BNC) acts as a one-stop shop, connecting students to essential information related to food security, affordable housing, health insurance, finances, legal services, mental health and tools for academic success, among other things. Dozens of U staff from 13 partner departments are collaborating daily to provide solutions to the problems students face.

“Basic Needs at the University of Utah is unique and draws on already free and existing services for students,” said Dr. Bryan Hubain, associate vice president, Student Development and Inclusion. “Although complex, BNC breaks down the silos and is a result of what happens when we listen to what our students are expressing as a need. The future physical space in the Student Union will add to our delivery and university goals around access for all.”

The BNC is now referring students to a variety of resources through their virtual office hours, Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-2 p.m., powered by ConexEd. When visiting the BNC Virtual Office students will see a full list of partner representatives and if they are on or offline. Students will be prompted to create a FERPA compliant ConexEd account to chat or leave a message for a representative. FERPA compliant platforms are essential to protect students’ private information.

Students can also access BNC services by submitting a simple two-question survey request form. Once a request is submitted, the student will automatically receive a list of suggested resources via email based on their needs. To date, responses to this form indicate that the top two areas being requested are mental health and finance services.

“We understand that wellness is the foundation of student success,” said Jenna Templeton, assistant director of Health Education,  Center for Student Wellness—one of the BNC’s partner offices. “Being well requires access to information, resources and services and the BNC aims to increase this access. We offer different ways to engage and find support based on what each student prefers.”

While the BNC is busy connecting with students virtually, a brand new physical space is currently under construction inspired by students’ input and design ideas. The completed BNC will be located in the Student Union, right next to the Feed U food pantry. It will feature private offices to meet with BNC representatives, a collaborative space to connect and work with other students and a waiting area that will double as a children’s play space.

New and expanding partnerships have also arrived at this pivotal moment. The University Federal Credit Union has generously invested financial support to the Collective to aid in the removal of barriers that impede student success. The children’s play space would not be possible without the generous support of the U Alumni Association and will be an asset to serving students who are parents.

Students are encouraged to follow the Basic Needs Collective on Instagram @uofu_bnc. The content will highlight timely information including resources from campus and community partners such as the Financial Wellness Center and SafeUT to name a few.