Nearly a quarter of Cal Poly students experience food insecurity, according to a 2018 California State University (CSU) Basic Needs Initiative Report.
To combat this, Cal Poly University Housing and Campus Dining are asking students, staff and faculty to donate to the Mustang Meal Share program or any other student support resources on campus in recognition of World Hunger Day on May 28.
World Hunger Day is an initiative from The Hunger Project that aims to bring awareness to global poverty and hunger. Cal Poly is asking its own community members to support one another through donations.
“We are hoping to raise awareness of student needs on campus and increase donations to the program,” Aaron Lambert, a communication specialist with Cal Poly, said in an email.
Mustang Meal Share allows for first-year students with meal plans to donate up to $195 throughout the academic year. This donation can total up to 30 meals for voucher participants, according to the Cal Poly Campus Dining website.
This is part of Cal Poly’s Essentials, which focuses on providing students with the resources needed to focus on education and success while at Cal Poly. Food services from Cal Poly Essentials include Cal Fresh outreach, the food pantry, monthly food bank distribution on campus and the community garden.
According to the CSU Basic Needs Initiative Report, students experiencing food insecurity reported worse physical and mental health and lower GPAs compared to other students.
Food insecurity disproportionately affects first-generation college students, students of color and students of lower socio-economic background.
“Mustang Meal Share is one more way that we can support those students and help Cal Poly Essentials continue to expand access to healthy and delicious food that will nourish students and promote success,” Kelsey McCourt, a campus dining registered dietitian, said in a Cal Poly Corporation press release.
Joseph Kastelic, an industrial technology and packaging freshman at Cal Poly, said he first heard about Mustang Meal Share through his mom.
Kastelic has since decided to let his remaining dining balance roll over each quarter and plans to make a meal share donation at the end of spring quarter.
“I think meal donations can make our community stronger because people that might not need those extra dollars can donate them to the people that actually do,” Kastelic said.
As of early March, almost $9,000 had been donated to Mustang Meal Share this academic year, according to Lambert.
So far, just over $13,000 have been donated to the Mustang Meal Share. Last year, almost $19,000 was raised, according to Lambert.
The greatest discrepancy here aligns with the onset of the pandemic. For spring quarter 2020, about $550 were donated, followed by about $1,800 of donation for fall quarter 2020.
However, the donation rates jumped back up to pre-COVID levels with a total of $9,000 donated this winter quarter, according to Lambert.
The university encourages students experiencing short-term food insecurity to contact the Dean of Students office and apply for the meal voucher program, which utilizes the Mustang Meal Share donations.
The meal voucher program grants up to $20 a week to use at on-campus dining facilities. Other on-campus food resources for students experiencing food insecurity include the Cal Poly food pantry and CalFresh outreach.