“Together, we will ensure that no student is hungry or homeless at Chico State.”
President Gayle E. Hutchinson’s declaration during her fall Convocation address last month was not a platitude, but rather a promise.
“It is paramount that we create a University experience where no student should have to make a decision between sufficient food and safe and reliable housing, and their education,” she said.
A 2016 CSU, Chico student research survey indicated that 46 percent of the University student respondents suffered from low to very low food security, reflecting an estimated 8,000 students campuswide. Additionally, initial California State University system research indicates that one in every 10 CSU students lives in unstable housing situations. Food and housing insecurity is proven to have negative effects on student well-being, academic performance, retention, and graduation rates.
The campus community is already coming together to reduce these numbers and fulfill Hutchinson’s promise. Earlier this year, a gift from the Chico Chapter of the California Faculty Association established the Chico Cares Endowment and Annual Fund to support the Chico State Basic Needs Project. The Basic Needs Project provides nutritious supplemental food through the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry (HWFP), short-term emergency housing, and emergency grants for students experiencing significant financial stress and poverty.
“The Chico Cares Campaign takes direct aim at fighting student poverty and helps ensure that every Chico State student has access to basic needs so they can complete their degree and graduate.”
The University’s dedication to supporting students with basic needs means a lot to those who benefit from it most, said sophomore biology major Alizette Balle, whose reality before finding relief at the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry was stark.
“Everybody thinks I have a pretty face and a good attitude. Nobody thinks I come from a broken household,” she said, noting that she started the 2016-17 school year with no place to live and barely enough money to buy books. “When I see other students come into the (pantry) office and they want food and have a situation, I have sympathy for them and I have empathy.”
The initial faculty gift to the endowment, which will support future students in need, was bolstered by the graduating Class of 2017 and their peers. Over 1,625 students donated more than $7,400 to grow the endowment and another $5,000 to the annual fund to support students’ immediate needs, officially kicking off this year’s Chico Cares Campaign. This was accomplished through a yearlong fundraising effort sponsored by the Chico State Student Philanthropy Council.
This collaboration among campus entities echoes the formula that has propelled the Pantry to success in serving thousands of students since its creation in 2013. Last year, the Pantry served 1,900 students—a significant increase from 300 students the preceding year. The expansion is largely due to a $20,100 grant from the Associated Students Sustainability Fund. With added support from the Chico Cares Campaign, the number of students served is expected to increase once again, with the goal of serving 4,000 students this academic year.
To assist in longer-term food assistance, participants are also supported through CalFresh USDA SNAP application assistance in the Pantry through a partnership with Chico State’s nationally recognized Center for Healthy Communities.
Additionally, funds from the Chico Cares Campaign will help the campus expand student support beyond food security to provide emergency housing resources. The School of Social Work, Financial Aid, University Housing, and Student Affairs have teamed up to develop a program to provide short-term emergency housing for students in financial crisis.
“Student food and housing insecurity are significant issues at Chico State and throughout the CSU system,” said Kathleen Moroney, founder of the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry. “The Chico Cares Campaign takes direct aim at fighting student poverty and helps ensure that every Chico State student has access to basic needs so they can complete their degree and graduate.”
The Chico Cares Campaign extends well beyond campus borders, as hundreds of community members and several organizations continue to support these efforts. In July, the Chico Breakfast Lions Club donated a $3,000 commercial-grade refrigerator to the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, which greatly increased its capacity to store healthy produce. Additionally, the Off-Campus Housing Connections program has raised nearly $40,000 in commitments from local property owners this year. The funds raised will be used exclusively to support students experiencing housing insecurities while building stronger relationships between the University and our off-campus housing providers.
To guarantee that the University can meet students’ needs today, the Chico Cares Campaign is raising $50,000 to fund the Basic Needs Project this year. Through the generous support of donors on and off campus, the campaign plans to culminate on Giving Day, November 28, 2017.
The goal of the Chico Cares Endowment is to provide long-term support for basic needs services in perpetuity, so that future students struggling with food and housing insecurity will always have the support they need to focus on their academic success and graduate.
In her message to campus announcing the Chico Cares Campaign to faculty and staff earlier this year, Hutchinson quoted nationally renowned financial aid scholar Sara Goldrick-Rab: “A college education is a great tool for overcoming poverty, but students have to be able to escape the conditions of poverty long enough to finish their degrees or we’re wasting their time.”
To achieve this goal, Hutchinson urged the campus community to get involved.
“You and other staff and faculty across campus work every day to give tomorrow’s leaders the knowledge and experiences they need to achieve their dreams,” she said. “With your support, we can ensure that hunger and housing insecurity will never stand in the way of our Wildcats’ ability to succeed.”
Support Chico Cares
- Give now by visiting http://chicocares.csuchico.edu or texting “chicocares” to 71777 on your mobile device.
- Students can join the cause by visiting the Student Philanthropy Council website at www.csuchico.edu/spc.
- Faculty and staff can give by completing the University’s Payroll Deduction Authorization Form and choosing to apply their gift to either or both of the following funds.
- Chico Cares Annual Fund #06824, which supports the immediate operating costs of the Basic Needs Project
- Chico Cares Endowment #18006, which invests in the long-term needs of the Basic Needs Project. Your gift will be added to the endowed fund and invested. A portion is then used to help future students in need.
- Finally, you can sign up to be a Chico Cares fundraiser or create your own team, and encourage your friends, family, and colleagues to join you in this important effort. Simply go to the Chico Cares website and click “Become a Fundraiser” and it will walk you through the steps. If you have any issues, please contact Nicole Williams in University Advancement for assistance.