Augmenting its already determined commitment to battling student food insecurity, California State University, Chico has been awarded a $155,000 grant from the CSU Chancellor’s Office, a portion of $2.5 million granted directly to the 23 CSU campuses by the California legislature earlier this month and the largest grant awarded systemwide.
Senate Bill 85 – signed into law in June 2017 – provided the CSU, University of California and California Community College systems each a one-time $2.5 million allocation to expand the fight against student hunger. Individual grants ranged from $40,000 to $155,000.
CSU, Chico’s Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry received $80,000. Additionally, the University’s Center for Healthy Communities (CHC), a national leader in USDA SNAP outreach in higher education, received one of 12 $75,000 Innovation Awards.
“When students’ basic needs are not addressed it can have an impact on their holistic well-being and academic growth,” said Denise Bevly, director of the CSU’s Student Wellness and Basic Needs Initiative. “That is why all CSU campuses have taken action to support students who are struggling with food or housing insecurity.
She noted that that this additional funding will enable the CSU campuses to better support students by expanding services like meal-sharing programs, CalFresh enrollment and emergency grants.
University President Gayle Hutchinson has made it a priority to provide CSU, Chico students with on-campus resources to ensure they are getting their basic needs met on a daily basis.
“Roughly half of our students wrestle with food and housing insecurity. No student should have to make the choice between sufficient food and safe and reliable housing, and their education,” Hutchinson said. “When our students are well-fed and well-rested through programs like the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry and Cal Fresh, they will be better able to succeed in school and thrive outside the classroom. Together, through programs like these, we will ensure that no student is hungry or homeless at Chico State.”
The CHC is already working on many levels to support California students. Its student employees and interns assist their peers at the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry and elsewhere on campus with the CalFresh application process. Through its larger CalFresh outreach and training program, the CHC is helping other CSU campuses address their own students’ needs.
With the new grant from the Chancellor’s Office, the CHC will establish the statewide CSU Basic Needs Training and Resource Center (TRC) to develop a comprehensive, web-based training model. The TRC will work to increase resources to meet student needs on all CSU campuses, and will develop and provide step-by-step guides, interactive activities and videos based on real-life campus scenarios so new and existing staff can increase their experience and skills at convenient training times.
“Today’s students are challenged to eat well and keep a roof over their heads, when we would prefer their main focus is to be doing well in school and preparing for a successful future,” said Stephanie Bianco, CHC associate director and associate professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Science. “But the particular challenges are different from campus to campus. So the TRC will help each campus fine-tune its resources and service delivery to meet specific local needs. It’s the only approach that makes sense.”
Joe Picard, administrator for the Chico State Basic Needs Project, noted that this grant represents the University’s first direct state-supported monetary award.
“The long-term negative economic potential of student food and housing insecurity is real and now well-documented,” Picard said. “Through the Basic Needs Project here at Chico State, we continue to improve our support for students through the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry, CalFresh Outreach, emergency loans and grants, housing assistance and other basic needs programs. And by ensuring that our students have adequate, nutritious food, we are helping them stay in school, graduate and become successful community leaders.”
Since 2013, the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry has provided supplemental food, meals, CalFresh and housing assistance, and basic needs referrals to more than 4,000 University students. The Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry serves an average of 80 students per day and has distributed an estimated 40 tons of supplemental food to date.
The pantry is located in the Student Services Center, Room 196, and spring semester hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit http://pantry.csuchico.edu for more information.