Center for Healthy Communities

Spring 2017

Two women and some peaches at a farmers' market

Benefits Enrollment Center Assists North State Seniors

The CHC hosts the new North State Benefits Enrollment Center (NSBEC), the only such center in Northern California.

For many older adults, Social Security benefits make up either their primary or sole incomes, according to the Social Security Administration. Nearly half of married seniors and 71 percent of those who aren’t married rely on Social Security for 50 percent or more of their incomes; 21 percent of married couples and 43 percent of unmarried elders count on Social Security for at least 90 percent of their incomes.

Yet with monthly benefit amounts averaging just $1,348 for retirees and $1,166 for disabled workers (as of June 2016) making ends meet is quite challenging.

That’s why the CHC joined forces with Passages to develop the North State Benefits Enrollment Center (NSBEC), thanks to funding from the National Council on Aging. The NSBEC reaches out to inform older adults and the disabled in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Tehama, and Yuba Counties about programs that could save individuals money on health care, prescriptions, food, and more, and will also help them enroll, if eligible.

“The Center for Healthy Communities has a strong history of helping vulnerable residents in Butte, Tehama, Glenn, Colusa, and Yuba counties,” said Executive Director Cindy Wolff. “We’re proud to be part of a national network of centers that since 2009 has helped over 700,000 low-income older adults and younger adults with disabilities save over half a billion dollars and achieve long-term financial stability.”

The NSBEC is one of only 49 community organizations across the country awarded grants to serve as such a center, and is the only one in Northern California. These regional enrollment centers are supported with funding from the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, administered through the US Administration for Community Living.

Enrollment centers use NCOA’s free online BenefitsCheckUp tool to screen lower income seniors and younger adults with disabilities for a number of programs and benefits—including Medicare Savings Programs, Part D Extra Help, Medi-Cal, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and CalFresh—and to help them apply for and use those benefits.

To see if someone you know qualifies for assistance, call 530-345-9749 or drop by the Center in downtown Chico at 25 Main St., Suite 201.

"Of all the self-fulfilling prophecies in our culture, the assumption that aging means decline and poor health is probably the deadliest." –Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy

Senior citizens participating in the NSBEC program

CHC Offers Other Senior Services

In addition to helping older North State adults and the disabled find out if they qualify for additional benefits—making it easier to make ends meet—the CHC also partners with Passages(opens in new window) to serve provide wholesome, freshly prepared Senior Meals in Butte County. Every Monday through Thursday the Center prepares wholesome, healthy meals from scratch, using fresh, local produce whenever possible. The Senior Meals program serves a noontime meal in a group setting in several different communities—Chico, Oroville, and Paradise—and also provides home-delivered meals to older adults who are too ill or disabled to get to a group meal site. The CHC also provides community classes useful to seniors, including Eat Right When Money’s Tight and Get Cookin’.

"How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?" –Satchel Paige, legendary National Baseball Hall of Fame Pitcher

Campus food pantries

CHC Takes the Lead in CSU Student Hunger Outreach

The Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) at Chico State is leading a new, systemwide California State University (CSU) effort to confront the complicated problem of student hunger—“food insecurity”—on the state’s college and university campuses.

According to CHC CalFresh Outreach Director Jenny Breed, all 11 universities involved in the outreach project are making notable progress. In addition to CSU, Chico, the CSU project campuses include Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, Dominguez Hills, East Bay, Long Beach, Northridge, San Bernardino, Fresno, Humboldt, and Sacramento.

“You can tell we’re working with staff on campus who are already involved with student services programs, who understand the need,” said Breed, following a recent face-to-face training session. “They are really excited about this.”

Through its partnership with the CSU’s Office of the Chancellor, the CHC currently serves as lead contractor for the new on-campus CalFresh Outreach project. The point of the program is to help staff on campus increase general awareness about nutrition assistance—especially CalFresh, which is California’s name for the federally funded Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—and to help eligible students apply. Central to this process is partnering with county social service offices, to identify and reduce barriers associated with student enrollment.

In 2016, the CSU Chancellor reported that roughly 21 percent of CSU students across the state, or one student in every five, are classified as “food insecure” by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) criteria. The USDA defines food insecurity as having problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food—including the quality, variety, and desirability of a diet—and the potential for disrupted eating patterns or reduced food intake.

“There is much evidence to show that not getting adequate nutrient-dense calories has an impact on performance in school and the ability to process and retain information in the classroom,” said CHC Associate Director Stephanie Bianco. “And when students are food insecure, you add another layer of stress. Instead of worrying about a test, they are worrying about where they will get their next meal or how they can balance paying for food with paying for rent or utilities.”

Educators at the CSU and elsewhere in California have been surprised to discover that the rate of CalFresh enrollment for eligible students is significantly lower than that of program participants in general. For example, just 20 percent of CalFresh-eligible Chico State students are currently enrolled in the program, compared to 63 percent of CalFresh-eligible California residents.

Such facts were the impetus for the CHC’s collaboration with the Office of the Chancellor and other university campuses.

According to Breed, even at this early stage there are signs of impressive progress—and creativity—in resolving food insecurity problems on CSU university campuses. At CSU Long Beach, for example, the university has created an on-campus “mini-mart”-style food stop on campus, where students can purchase a healthful, reasonably priced lunch with CalFresh benefits. Students, including student parents, can also stop and shop before heading home to cook dinner.

The CSU statewide CalFresh Outreach program will continue through the 2017–18 academic year. Assuming project success, and support from the Chancellor’s Office, the CHC hopes to continue its efforts in 2018–19, with the goal of extending outreach efforts to all 23 CSU campuses.

The CalFresh Outreach program is funded in part by the USDA’s Food Nutrition Service and overseen by the California Department of Social Services.

Fresh produce distributed on campus

See the Fall CHC newsletter for more information on student hunger

"The freedom of man, I contend, is the freedom to eat." – Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Christian Science Monitor Highlights CHC and Chico State Work to Eliminate Hunger

Efforts by Chico State and the CHC to alleviate student hunger were prominently featured in a recent news article by Jessica Mendoza of the Christian Science Monitor,  California boosts efforts to stamp out hunger on campus, published on March 21, 2017. Mendoza began her piece by observing that the starving student stereotype “is more literal in America than many people ever realized,” and that emergency food pantries are now almost as common on campuses as bookstores. Finding real solutions to new college student realities means overcoming complex challenges.

"Hunger is not a problem. It is an obscenity. How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."  –Anne Frank, a teenager forced into hiding during the Holocaust

The Organic Vegetable Project at Chico State

A greenhouse used for the Organic Vegetable Project

CSU Chico Associated Students Contributes $20K to Food Pantry

Through its Sustainability Program, the Associated Students (AS) at CSU, Chico has awarded $20,100 to the campus  Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry.

The funds will help support the on-campus Veggie Bucks program by purchasing student-grown organic produce from the University Farm’s Organic Vegetable Project—expanding existing efforts to get fresh food from the farm to students. The grant will also provide low-income students with prepaid cards to purchase nutritious meals at AS Dining Services.

“Food insecurity on campus is real. It is a symptom of student financial stress, as we know many of our peers are struggling to cover their expenses and basic needs,” said AS President Michael Pratt. “We are happy to continue to support this program because we know the importance of good nutrition as a foundation for learning and student success.”

In February 2015, the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry began distributing paper vouchers, called Veggie Bucks, which student participants can use to buy organic produce from the University Farm’s Organic Vegetable Project.

Organic produce from the University Farm is harvested and sold seasonally at a weekly produce stand located on the CSU, Chico campus.

The Veggie Bucks effort was able to expand last year through donations from University staff and faculty, as well as from members of the community and an initial AS Sustainability Fund grant. Since 2015, more than 4,250 pounds of fresh, organic produce have been distributed to about 600 low-income Chico State students.

The new grant will also help the AS create a CalFresh Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) system so students can buy allowable foods on campus.

The federal CalFresh Program—also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP—issues monthly electronic benefits to help low-income individuals and families purchase food.

The University Farm’s Organic Vegetable Project is a grant-funded, student-run project established in 2008 that is administered by the College of Agriculture. The project manages three certified organic farm acres, which are in production year-round. The project also distributes the organic harvest through Community Supported Agriculture food deliveries and the weekly campus produce market.

Established in 2013, the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry provides Chico State students with access to nutritious food. It has served more than 1,000 students since 2013. The pantry program also provides CalFresh application assistance, nutrition education, and basic needs referrals.

"As a people, we value family, education, and success. Hunger is an enemy to all three."  –Ted Danson, actor

Student-organized FFA at Los Molinos High School

Los Molinos High Students Hold "Full and Complete Food Drive"

Thanks to students and staff at Los Molinos High School, the CHC at Chico State, and other community partners, the Los Molinos Full and Complete Food Drive is in the bag.

During the half-day, February 15 event at Los Molinos High, students were excused from classes to help fill Champions for Change gift bags with lentils, rice, quinoa, and cranberry beans. The filled food bags were transported to Tom Jones’ farm for storage.

Los Molinos High School Future Farmers of America (FFA) students organized the food drive to combat food insecurity in their own community. Students hope to establish a permanent local food pantry, a place where locals who are struggling with hunger can acquire food on a consistent basis. The food now in storage, for example, should meet basic community needs for about one year.

Local FFA students attended a similar event in Washington, DC, during summer 2016, where they provided 50,000 meals for homeless families. The experience was so compelling that the students wanted to coordinate a similar event in Los Molinos.

The event also engaged students in learning more about the nutritional elements of the foods they provided, and learning more about the larger problem of hunger, working with Chico State students at both the CHC and in Patti Horsley’s “Health and Community Services” class.

The Los Molinos Full and Complete Food Drive is a community-based collaboration of students, farmers, faculty, staff, community members, and the CHC. Donations were crucial to the project’s success. The Public Health Division of the Tehama County Health Services Agency and UC CalFresh, for example, donated bags to help portion and distribute the food. The North State Food Bank donated and delivered more than 1,000 pounds of rice and quinoa, along with 1,000 pounds of lentils, and Andersen & Sons Shelling of Vina provided 1,000 pounds of cranberry beans. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico supplied cardboard boxes to store packaged meals.

"If we conquer space, we can conquer childhood hunger."  –Buzz Aldrin, American astronaut

Alum Tayler Kiss-Lane lands a job at Stanford

Tayler Kiss-Lane: CHC Alum Lands Job at Stanford

Tayler Kiss-Lane, former CHC student intern and employee and a CSU, Chico health education graduate, recently started her first professional job as a faculty associate at Stanford University. In part, her job is providing administrative support to faculty members in the Department of Primary Care and Population Health.

But what Kiss-Lane likes best about her job is the opportunity to tackle projects of great personal interest. She is currently developing an entirely new website for her division and also creating an online platform to allow primary care physicians to review another physician’s medical charts.

Looking to the future, Kiss-Lane plans to pursue her master’s degree in public health, a goal her colleagues and supervisors at Stanford strongly support. They are also encouraging her to participate in faculty research and work toward coauthoring articles in peer-reviewed journals.

The skills she learned at the CHC, Kiss-Lane believes, are invaluable in her new job. Coworkers were always supportive, and no matter the task it never felt like “work.”

“The importance of good communication, time management, being able to work as a team or independently, working in an office environment—all of this, and more, helped me tremendously,” she said recently. “And thanks to the CHC I will always strive to have a job I feel good about. Working there showed me that I want to work in communities and make a difference.”

The first time Kiss-Lane remembers feeling she had made a difference was after a week of teaching Cooking Matters lessons. Following the final class, a woman and her young daughter came up. The mother shared that her daughter was now much more willing to try new fruits and vegetables.

For current students wondering whether to intern or work for the CHC, Kiss-Lane says, “Do it! You’ll meet inspiring people and gain incredible professional experience. You’ll never regret it.”

"The war against hunger is truly mankind's war of liberation." – John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Other CHC News

CHC Anniversary Summit Attracts 80 Attendees

More than 80 North State health leaders came together in Chico last November to help the CHC celebrate its 15 years of work to create a healthier Northern California—and to develop new ideas to make further progress.

The CHC’s North State Healthy Living Leadership Summit was held to inspire new community-health support strategies, to encourage new partnerships and funding strategies, and to stimulate ideas that lead to effective action.

Health Happens Where We Live

CHC Director Cindy Wolff pointed all that there are real costs, both personal and social, to poor health. The cost of health care represented 17% of the nation’s Gross Domestics Product (GDP) in 2007, she pointed out, and is expected to reach at least 19% by 2017.

In fact, Wolff pointed out, physical inactivity and unhealthy diets are second only to tobacco as the main causes of premature death in the United States.

But better access to healthy foods and choosing where we live—and how we live there—can encourage better health. An improved “built environment,” with wide sidewalks and safe bike lanes, more stairways, and accessible recreation areas, supports economic growth as well as local health, because communities with these features appeal to innovative companies and skilled employees.

Healthier, “walkable” communities are so desirable, Wolff said, that rentals and home sales can command a price 40% to 100% more than other nearby options.

Wolff advocated a “TEAM” approach to creating healthier communities, “because Together Everyone Achieves More.”

FoodCorps Digs Healthy Food

Representing FoodCorps California, an offshoot of the AmeriCorps program, Cassie Spindler explained how the program currently works in 17 Northern California communities.

Food Corps envisions “a future in which all our nation’s children—regardless of class, race, or geography—know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and eat it every day,” Spindler said. The program also works to foster a generation of leaders with the skills and experience to turn that vision into a reality.

Most FoodCorps projects involve school gardens, she said, but also cooking and food tastings—because kids love to eat the foods they have grown and prepared themselves. Seven out of every ten children taught by Food Corps in 2016 “improved their attitudes toward vegetables, tried new ones, or maintained their high regard for them if they already liked them.”

FoodCorps programs help create “a school-wide culture of health,” so that the entire school program celebrates healthy food.

Why Families Matter 

Shelley Hart, Assistant Professor of Child Development at Chico State, talked about the significance of families for community health. Families usually provide children with their earliest nurturing and other support, but can also create various types of abuse, neglect, and other adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) that have lasting negative effects on health.

The vast majority of California adults—more than 60 percent—have suffered from at least one ACE, which range from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse to family hunger, homelessness, mental illness, and other household dysfunction.

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, correlates of ACEs include unhealthy behaviors from smoking and alcohol and drug abuse to physical inactivity, and often result in the increased likelihood of depression, suicide, obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, cancer, stroke, heart disease, and more.

Exposure to ACEs also sensitizes children and adults to stress. Positive stress is necessary for healthy human development. But toxic stress—stress that is extreme, frequent, and activates a person’s stress responses for an extended period—needs to be buffered by a person’s family or other supportive adults.

So, Hart said, to support community health we need to find ways to buffer stressful experiences. She challenged the audience to think of new and better ways to do just that.

Moving Ahead from Here

Community leaders in attendance shared concerns about health care issues and offered various suggestions for moving ahead.

Reducing “siloing” between health care delivery systems and social service needs was one issue identified—so seniors without transportation, for example, could get all their needs meet in one building.

“What if our health care system improved people’s health?” was another.

Another problem to overcome: the lack of broadband high-speed Internet access in many parts of the north state, which prevents the types of technological health care solutions that transcend distance—meaning that many health care needs can be met where people are.

Attendees strongly supported approaches that bring services directly to people—including expanded learning after-school programs that serve entire families, and national clearinghouses that coenroll for services.

Finding ways to deliver healthy food into “food deserts” was a top priority.

The day’s lunch underscored the availability of healthy, local foods, with naturally leavened breads from Miller’s Bake House of Yankee Hill; fromage blanc and feta cheese from Orland Farmstead Creamery; organic brown rice from Massa Organics; almonds and walnuts from Alvarado Farms; and fresh fruits and vegetables from Farmelot, Moua’s Produce, Pyramid Farms, Dhillon Farms, Howard’s Natural Produce, and Kaki Farms, all located in Butte County. The Plant Barn & Gift Shop of Chico provided fresh flowers.

CHC to Start Planned Giving Campaign

The CHC will soon launch a fundraising campaign to begin building its own endowment fund. According to CHC Executive Director Cindy Wolff, a major focus of this effort will be to encourage people to include bequests to the CHC in their wills, as part of long-term planned giving.

“The CHC has been around for 15 years and counting,” Wolff said. “People can trust that we’ll be here in the years ahead, so they can trust the desire to include us in their wills.”

Details of the CHC’s planned giving campaign will emerge in coming months.

CHC Offers ServSafe Classes and Tests

The CHC continues to offer all-day ServSafe food safety trainings and certification testing to the general public as well as food industry professionals. The cost is $130 (with book and answer sheet), or $90 for the workshop alone. Space is limited so pre-registration is required. The most recent ServSafe workshop for the general public was offered on March 1, but training and testing are typically offered every few months. For more information or to pre-register for the next ServSafe workshop at the CHC, call 530-898-4318.


Chico Marches for Science on April 22

Get the T-shirt! Students and staff from the CSU Chico College of Natural Sciences and other science-lovers will be walking out of the lab and into the streets to join March for Science-Chico on Earth Day, April 22, 2017. Held in conjunction with the International March for Science, the day’s theme is “Science, Not Silence.” See the Chico march Facebook page (above) and watch local media for details.

Chico State President Recognizes CHC

On page 13 of CSU, Chico President Gayle Hutchinson’s report on her recent 100-day Listening Tour (PDF), the new president recognized the CHC: “In an effort to reduce food insecurity among students throughout the California State University system, Chico State’s Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) has partnered with the Office of the Chancellor in a system-wide effort to conduct CalFresh Outreach with students on 11 college campuses.”

May is CalFresh Awareness Month

“Better access to better food for better living” is the CalFresh motto, and May is the month that counties throughout the state make a special effort to get the word out. This year the CalFresh community focus is alleviating childhood hunger—through school meal programs; Women, Infants, and Children; First 5; and MediCal. Watch local media for details about what’s happening in your community.

CHC in the News

Chico Enterprise-Record

The CHC was featured in the front-page article Food Pantry Feeds Hundreds of Students, published on March 6, 2017.

Chico Enterprise-Record

The news photo and caption, Meeting basic community needs, covering the Los Molinos High School “Full and Complete Food Drive” in February, were published on February 19, 2017.

Red Bluff Daily News

The news story Healthy living summit draws area professionals was published on November 22, 2016.