CSU, Chico Selected to Lead CSU in CalFresh Outreach to Reduce Food Insecurity Among Students at 11 Campuses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: 01-18-2017

Ashley Gebb
Public Affairs
530-898-4435
Stephanie Bianco
Center for Healthy Communities
530-898-4022

In an effort to reduce food insecurity among students throughout the California State University system, CSU, Chico’s Center for Healthy Communities (CHC) has partnered with the Office of the Chancellor in a systemwide effort to conduct CalFresh Outreach with students on college campuses. With CHC serving as lead contractor, the CalFresh Outreach program will operate at 11 campuses to develop resources to increase awareness about this important nutrition assistance program, help eligible students apply for CalFresh, and partner with county social service offices to identify and reduce barriers associated with student enrollment.

In 2016, an Office of the Chancellor report indicated that 21 percent of CSU students across the state are classified as food insecure by USDA criteria. The USDA defines food insecurity as having problems or anxiety about consistently accessing adequate food, with impacts to 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.”

The ultimate goal of the CalFresh Outreach program is for students to apply and begin receiving benefits, Bianco said. CalFresh is the name given in California for the federally funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and it provides additional funding to low-income individuals or households for nutritious foods at participating stores and farmers’ markets.

Unfortunately, the rate for university student enrollment in this food assistance program is significantly lower than statewide participation. For example, 20 percent of CalFresh eligible Chico State students are currently enrolled in the program, compared to 63 percent of CalFresh eligible California residents.

“People often think that with financial aid, students don’t need social services. But financial aid doesn’t always cover basic needs, especially in areas with high costs of living,” Bianco said. “What’s critically important about this funding is that it will assist students who may otherwise drop out of college and remain in a cycle of poverty.”

Through the 2017–18 academic year, the CalFresh Outreach program will operate at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State LA, Chico State, CSU Dominguez Hills, Cal State East Bay, CSU Long Beach, CSU Northridge, CSU San Bernardino, Fresno State, Humboldt State and Sacramento State. With the support of the Chancellor’s Office, when CHC reapplies for the program in 2018, it hopes to include outreach efforts at all 23 CSU campuses as part of its programming.

The CalFresh Outreach program is funded in part by the United States Department of Agriculture, Food Nutrition Service and overseen by the California Department of Social Services. This program will help CSU students acquire the nutrition assistance they need to support their academic performance and decrease stress associated with the high cost of attending college.

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