Center for Healthy Communities

Fall 2016

Alica Bedore in Sacramento

For Alica Bedore, Every Day is Food Day

Student food insecurity is now a major issue on most campuses of the California State University (CSU). Alica Bedore knows a great deal about this subject—in part because she knows a great about CalFresh, the federally funded program that helps low-income people buy the food they need for good health.

In fact, Bedore focused her master’s degree on the eligibility of Chico State students for CalFresh benefits.

The results of her research, not yet formally released, suggest that almost 50 percent (46.4 percent) of CSU, Chico students are “food insecure,” according to current USDA eligibility measurements. Yet by other allowable screening criteria, Bedore discovered that almost 60 percent (59.6 percent) of Chico State students can be categorized as suffering from too little food, or from poor quality food.

Even more startling, though, is the fact that only 11.7 percent of Chico State students currently receive CalFresh benefits.

Why is there such a big gap between the need for healthy food and the ability of CalFresh to meet it?

There are multiple issues, Bedore said. Until very recently many students weren’t aware that they might qualify for CalFresh benefits. Students who qualify in terms of income also need to demonstrate that they are working—something not all students can do. The demands of a student’s education program can make employment impossible. Social work majors, for example, are required to commit to 16-hour-per-week unpaid internships.

Still another problem has been the long-standing stigma attached to receiving food assistance—an issue reaching back to the early days of food stamps, when program participants “spent” special paper scrip in stores. Spending food stamps publicly identified program participants as aid recipients, so standing in a grocery checkout line could become an embarrassment.

Today’s college students don’t remember that stigma, of course. According to Bedore, students generally respond well to efforts to “normalize” the need for food aid. Poverty in college is transitory—and temporary.

“It’s transitional poverty,” Bedore said. “You may be strapped now, but once you land that first job after college you won’t be. School’s time-consuming and also expensive, but your health doesn’t have to suffer in the process. You have to take care of yourself to succeed in life—and in college.

Now serving as staff lead for both the CalFresh Outreach program and the North State Benefits Enrollment Center under CalFresh Outreach Director Jenny Breed, Bedore started at the CHC as a nutrition student and intern. She was soon hired on as staff, assisted by three social work interns. The program’s work to eliminate food insecurity has grown rapidly ever since.

“The word’s gotten out at Chico State about CalFresh, definitely,” Bedore said. At the beginning of this fall semester, with no promotional effort at all, 177 students had applied for CalFresh benefits. That number represented a 150 percent increase over last fall’s student applications—and those 119 applicants came only after extensive outreach, including many classroom talks.

In addition to her many other hats at work, Bedore has long been the key “point person” for coordinating Food Day celebrations on campus.

Scheduled in previous years on October 24, with big-time organizational support from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Food Day is no longer coordinated at the national level. But thanks to Bedore and her crew, Food Day activities will continue at Chico State and Butte College.

“Every day is Food Day,” Bedore said. “What we eat matters to our health, and our food policies affect the quality of food we eat.”

"Hunger and malnutrition have devastating consequences for children and have been linked to low birth weight and birth defects, obesity, mental and physical health problems, and poorer educational outcomes." —Marian Wright Edelman, children’s rights activist

Relevant Research

The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) recently surveyed a randomly selected cross-section of 707 CSU, Chico students. Using a USDA-validated tool to assess food security status, the survey found 46.4 percent of the University’s students are food insecure. Regardless of their USDA food security classification, students could be eligible for CalFresh benefits based on federal household income guidelines and student specific criteria, e.g. number of units taken in school, age, and work status. (CalFresh is California’s name for federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, food aid once known as Food Stamps.) Using these other screening criteria, 59.6 percent of student respondents would likely be deemed eligible for CalFresh benefits. In contrast to these findings, the current rate of CalFresh enrollment among participating students was 11.7 percent.

"The lack of access to proper nutrition is not only fueling obesity, it is leading to food insecurity and hunger among our children." –Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture

The food pantry at Chico State

1 in 4 College and University Students (and Their Studies) Suffer from Inadequate or Insufficient Food

It’s a startling fact: Many college students in the US are going hungry. Many don’t know when their next nutritious meal will come or where it will come from.

How many university and college students can be classified as “food insecure”? As reported in 2014 by MSNBC, the total annual number may be well over 1 million. Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America Report estimates that college students represent about 10 percent of its 46.5 million adult clients—roughly 4.65 million, with 2 million of those attending college full-time. Almost one-third of Feeding America’s college student clients—30.5 percent or 1.5 million students—report that they’ve had to choose between paying for college costs and buying food.

A study conducted by researchers at Oregon State University, the Benton County Health Department, and Western Oregon University students discovered that 59 percent of students were “food insecure” at some point during the previous year.

To cut costs, according to research published in U.S. News & World Report, 71 percent of college students in Wisconsin changed their food shopping and eating habits, and 27 percent said they “did not have enough money to buy food; they ate less than they felt they should; or they cut the size of their meals because of money.”

In “The Hidden Hunger on College Campuses,” published in The Atlantic on January 14, 2016, Laura McKenna points to initial findings by the same Wisconsin researchers that suggest more than half of all community college students throughout the US have “marginal to low food security,” while the rest have few food concerns.

California Trends Equally Troubling

These findings are no surprise to leaders at California’s public universities, who have recently shared their own surprising statistics.

A January 2016 report from the California State University (CSU) system estimated that between 8.7 percent and 11 percent of its students are homeless and between 21 percent and 24 percent are food insecure—one in every four to five students.

Recent University of California (UC) student surveys revealed that roughly one in five students, or 19 percent, have “very low” food security, which means they reduce the amount of food they eat due to limited resources. Another 23 percent, or one in four UC students, have “low” food security, characterized as a diet of reduced quality, variety, or desirability.

Next time, we’ll look at what the CSU is doing to end student hunger.

"Working at the Food Bank with my kids is an eye-opener. The face of hunger isn't the bum on the street drinking Sterner; it's the working poor. They don't look any different, they don't behave any differently, they're not really any less educated. They are incredibly less privileged, and that's it." –Mario Batali, chef and media personality

Who is "Food Insecure" and Why?

Food insecurity is defined by the US Department of Agriculture as a lack of “access . . . to enough food for an active, healthy life.” Its severity can range from a poor quality (low-nutrient) diet or one that lacks variety to irregular eating patterns and reduced food consumption. According to the USDA, US food insecurity increased by 24 percent in just one year following the financial collapse of 2008.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, University of Wisconsin professor of education policy and sociology, has identified two types of students that struggle with food insecurity—those who experienced hunger and poverty before attending college, and those who are hungry for the first time due to the expenses of higher education.

Elizabeth Lower-Basch observes that this new awareness of hunger on college campuses comes at a time when so-called “nontraditional” students, including those who are low-income, older, raising a family, and attending community college, have become the norm. Given that more than half of US high-school students qualify for free or reduced-price meals, Lower-Basch points out that those needs don’t change when students head to college.

"I first got involved with ending world hunger, and I got hip to the facts about it–what a huge problem it was and how it wasn't a matter of not having food or not knowing how to end it, but it was a matter of creating the political will." –Jeff Bridges, actor and musician

Other CHC News

CHC Wins Statewide CSU Student Hunger Grant

The CHC has received $1,640,968 from the California Departments of Public Health and Social Services to implement CalFresh Outreach services on California State University campuses. Partnering with the CSU Chancellor’s Office to eliminate student hunger, the CHC will lead the effort among CSU campuses during the next two academic years to help students eligible for CalFresh to sign up for, receive, and use CalFresh benefits.

The idea is that helping students enroll in CalFresh will increase their income and help cover their basic needs. Working less outside the classroom should reduce stress and increase student success and graduation rates.

The CHC anticipates that at least 9,000 students will be enrolled in CalFresh each year. These numbers could easily double as the stigma of receiving food assistance decreases and the awareness of its availability increases. CSU administrators don’t know how many of their students are eligible for the CalFresh benefit but have stated that it parallels the percentage of students eligible for financial aid, which at some campuses is half of all students.

In 2016–17, the CHC will work with nine campuses to identify the best practices for, and barriers to, CalFresh student enrollment, and then communicate these findings to the Chancellor’s Office and Department of Social Services to support enrollment for all eligible high-need students. The CHC will work with the Chancellor’s Office to include all 23 campuses in the CalFresh Outreach contract by 2018.

CHC 2016 Publications to Date

Chunyan Song, sociology; Keiko Goto, nutrition and food science; Cindy Wolff, nutrition and food science; and Min Hu, student, coauthored the article “The Impact of Social and Cultural Factors on the Consumption of Western Fast Food among Chinese Children” in the Community Development Journal, published in January 2016.

Fay Mitchell-Brown, nursing, and Keiko Goto, nutrition and food science, coauthored the article “A Study of Hmong Immigrants’ Experience with Diabetes Education: A Community-Engaged Qualitative Study” in the Journal of Transcultural Nursing, published in 2016.

Nancy Anderson and Keiko Goto, nutrition and food science, coauthored a textbook, “Global Food and Nutrition,” for the “Ecology of Human Nutrition” course. It was published by Kona Publishing in time for the fall 2016 semester and is in the process of being marketed across the US, Canada, and Europe.

Keiki Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Jennifer Whitten, Center for Healthy Communities; Maria Giovanni, nutrition and food science; Cindy Wolff, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; and Stephanie Bianco, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science, coauthored the article “Understanding Possible Roles of Locally Grown Ethnic Produce in Dietary Practices and Food Cultures: An exploratory Study” in the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, Vol.11, No. 1, published in March 2016.

Poster Papers Presented This Summer

The following five posters were presented at the annual meeting for the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior in San Diego, California, from July 31–August 2, 2016.

Gauri Karnik, graduate student; Keiko Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Ben Seipel, education; Shannon Pierson, graduate student; Joan Giampaoli, Center for Healthy Communities; and Kevin Buffardi, computer science, presented “Factors Associated with Cue-Elicited Food Craving among Elementary School Children.”

Rocio Mendez, graduate student; Keiko Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Joan Giampaoli, Center for Healthy Communities; Chunyan Song, sociology; Gauri Karnik graduate student; and Alyson Wylie, Center for Healthy Communities, presented “Cultural Influences on Mindful Eating among Parents of Elementary School Children.”

Keiko Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Cindy Wolff, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Joan Giampaoli, Center for Healthy Communities; Ben Seipel, education; Shannon Pierson, graduate student; and Alyson Wylie, Center for Healthy Communities, presented “Development of a Mindful Eating Intervention among Elementary School Children and Their Parents.”

Shannon Pierson, graduate student; Keiko Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Joan Giampaoli, Center for Healthy Communities; Alyson Wylie, Center for Healthy Communities; Ben Seipel, education; and Gauri Karnik, graduate student, presented “Factors Associated with Emotional Eating and Mindless Eating among Third-to-Fifth Grade Students.”

Sheng Yang, sociology student; Rocio Mendez, graduate student; Keiko Goto, Center for Healthy Communities, nutrition and food science; Joan Giampaoli, Center for Healthy Communities; Alyson Wylie, Center for Healthy Communities; and Ben Seipel, education, presented “Factors Associated with Mindful Food Parenting Practices.”


CHC Featured in "Excellence" Brochure

The CHC is featured twice in the 2016–17 CSU, Chico Experience Excellence brochure. The $250,000 grant received by Assistant Director Stephanie Bianco from the USDA to increase the number of low-income families at north valley farmers’ markets is mentioned on page 9. The CHC’s long-running commitment to community service, including the 20,000 K-12 students it serves each year in 15 north state counties, is highlighted on page 15. Excellent!

CHC Hosts Summit on November 1

Mark your calendars! To recognize its 15th anniversary as a Northern California health advocacy organization, the CHC is hosting a North State Healthy Living Leadership Summit on Tuesday, November 1.

The point is to gather together leaders who are actively working to create healthy communities—in schools, neighborhoods, and in the larger “community” defined by public health policy and services and see what kinds of change-making collaborations come of it.

The CHC’s Healthy Living Leadership Summit will:

  • Inspire new strategies to support community health
  • Encourage new partnerships and funding strategies
  • Stimulate ideas that lead to effective action
  • Energize the connection between community and economic health
  • Celebrate community innovation and success

For more information, contact Michele Buran with CHC at

Fall Means Food Day

Formal nationwide Food Day observations on October 24 are no longer being funded through the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

But that doesn’t mean Food Day will end. In fact, the event will live on here in the North State because the CHC is committed to promoting the health benefits of fresh, wholesome, and locally grown food.

This year, CHC-sponsored food events will include special CalFresh Day outreach in October for students at Chico State and Butte College campuses. For more information about Food Day, contact the CHC’s Alica Bedore at

CHC in the Media

The CHC has garnered some good local press lately, including this article in the Chico Enterprise-Record, “Center for Healthy Communities celebrates 15 years,” published September 5, 2016, and an earlier article reminding the public that the CHC regularly serves senior meals in three Butte County communities, “Weekly meals to seniors at three Butte County sites,” published July 22, 2016. The CHC was also in an E-R feature on the North State Food Bank, “North State Food Bank fills ongoing need,” published July 26, 2016.

Get Cookin camp for kids

Camp for Kids cooks up Confidence in the Kitchen

By Jackie Paim

In a world of fast food and sugary drinks, it is refreshing to find a program that gets kids to slow down and enjoy a healthy meal—let alone teach them to cook one themselves. That’s the idea behind the summer cooking classes the Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) has offered to kids for more than a decade now.

Get Cooking is a five-day camp designed to get kids off to a successful start in the kitchen. During the week, the class offers children ages 7–13 reliable nutrition information and cooking skills, encouraging them to get comfortable in the kitchen and experiment with food. Kids learn how to cook but also how to safely use a knife. They learn to prepare a variety of recipes such as egg burritos, tabouli, and pumpkin pudding, while CHC interns teach them the fine points of safe food preparation. Children also enjoy interacting with these “older kids” while they learn to cook, bake, sauté, and fry.

Get Cooking started more than 10 years ago as Lifelong Eating and Activity Patterns (LEAP), a summer camp program for kids that was designed to mix together cooking, nutrition education, and plenty of play to make sure outdoor physical activity was also part of the program.

Three years ago, when Get Cooking began its partnership with the Chico Area Recreation and Park District, the camp gained a professional kitchen, which allowed cooking to become the main activity. But nutrition education and physical activity are still strong. Program director Jennifer Murphy added outdoor water games with water balloons—perfect for a hot summer day. Afterward, while kids dry out, there’s a quick 10-minute talk about nutrition that covers topics such as MyPlate, the benefits of drinking water instead of sodas and other sugary drinks, and why it’s important to eat whole grains. Then it is back to cooking!

The most anticipated part of each Get Cooking session is the finale—the CHC Chopped Challenge held on the last day of camp. Kids demonstrate both their new confidence and cooking skills for local celebrity judges as they create original dishes from a limited number of ingredients. During the last few years, celebrity judges have included everyone from the city of Chico’s mayor and Chico State professors to school food service directors. Grouped into teams of four, kids receive their “mystery baskets” and tackle the challenge they’ve been excited about all week.

“They perform quite well,” Murphy said, “And they cook some really good food!”

Get Cooking is intended to assist and educate young chefs, but the CHC interns who run the camp benefit as well. Individually, interns gain a sense of ownership by managing ongoing responsibilities such as organizing the week’s events, shopping for groceries, and planning what to bring to camp. They also gain experience in leadership, community outreach, classroom management, and public speaking.

Staff and interns at the CHC, the young chefs, and their parents all praise Get Cooking. All things considered, it’s easy to see why—especially from a parent’s point of view. Not only does Get Cooking get their children excited about cooking, it encourages kids to become involved with cooking dinners at home.

With the cooking camp’s growing popularity, Murphy hopes to expand next summer’s Get Cooking program from three one-week camp sessions to four.

Jackie Paim worked as a media intern at the Center for Healthy Communities during the summer of 2016.