Erica Hudson | Mustang News

Cal Poly has created an outreach program to help spread awareness about a state resource called CalFresh that gives struggling students money to buy food at local grocery stores and the farmer’s market.

A study conducted by the California State University system in February 2015 found that one in four college students were food insecure. In response, CalFresh outreach programs were implemented on college campuses.

Part of a federally funded resource known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Cal Poly’s CalFresh outreach program has helped about 230 students apply, with more than 100 in Fall 2017, according to nutrition graduate student and CalFresh outreach program leader Kelly Condron.

“We’ve seen student athletes, students from every major and background that have come in here looking for help,” Condron said. “I think it’s a bigger problem than students are aware of.”

When students come to drop-in hours, members of the outreach program guide them through the process of applying.

According to Condron, students looking to apply must be permanent residents of the United States and residents of California. Additionally, prospective applicants must be enrolled in at least six units, meet income requirements and meet one exemption.

If eligible, students undergo a phone interview after applying and must submit the necessary paperwork within a 30-
day window.

The outreach program also helps to spread awareness on campus by creating flyers, tabling and working together with other organizations. The program uses their Facebook page to post healthy recipes and alert students when they have a table in the University Union Plaze to provide information about food insecurity and signing up for Cal Fresh.

Political science junior Dezeray Cruz has been using CalFresh since last summer after she heard about the resource from her department. She believes the $125 a month she receives is enough and helps her eat healthier than she otherwise would have.

“The biggest thing for me is being able to go to [the farmer’s market and] eat organic, fresh food,” Cruz said. “Now I actually cook and meal prep instead of eating unhealthy, processed food.”

Partners of CalFresh in the San Luis Obispo area include Trader Joe’s, Vons, Food for Less and the farmer’s market. Condron said students can even buy seeds to grow their own food.

Hungry to learn

Food science and nutrition professor and Cal Poly’s CalFresh program director Aydin Nazmi cited the complexities of the issue CalFresh seeks to address.

“Yes, [food insecurity] is undoubtedly a complex problem,” Nazmi wrote in an email. “Not only from the obvious lack of financial resources, but also more systemic issues such as such as the skyrocketing price of college tuition, unreasonable textbook costs, outdated financial aid algorithms, and in most of California, the cost of housing.”

Nazmi explained there are three main reasons why this massive, prevalent issue of food insecurity goes unnoticed. Firstly, food insecurity is not always outwardly apparent. Secondly, there is stigma surrounding food insecurity. Finally, because the issue can be personally and socially sensitive, many students who face food insecurity are reluctant to tell anyone, even their
closest friends.

“Knowing that some of your expenses are covered can ease much of the psychological and social stress that come with not having enough to eat,” Nazmi wrote.

Other services

Students that don’t qualify for CalFresh are directed towards other resources on campus and in San Luis Obispo. Possible options include:

1. Food Pantry: Students can come in to the Cal Poly Pantry and can fill a bag with food that is available without being questioned. Items that are usually donated are packaged and canned foods, frozen meals and personal hygiene products. Drop-in hours are every Monday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in the Health Center (building 27, room 173B).

2. Meal Vouchers: Students can receive meal vouchers to use for all-you-can-eat meals at Metro 19 on campus.

3. Food Bank Coalition of SLO County: Members of the San Luis Obispo community can come pick up non-perishable goods.

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