Providing students with greater access to food through the CalFresh program is the goal of a University-wide outreach event on Feb. 27. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)
By Dixie Reid
Nearly half of Sacramento State’s more than 31,000 students struggle with food insecurity, University leaders say, but fewer than 400 have signed up for the federal nutrition-assistance program known as CalFresh.
That disparity, mirrored across California State University (CSU), prompted the Chancellor’s Office to call for special events at all 23 campuses in February to educate students about the benefits of CalFresh, formerly known as Food Stamps.
Sac State’s CalFresh Outreach Day activities are scheduled for 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27, in the Library Quad. Plans include free pizza and burritos for students, DJ music, balloons, a raffle, and CalFresh application assistance. Students also will be shown how to acquire a waiver for the CalFresh work requirement.
“There is nothing wrong with asking for help,” said Danielle Muñoz, Sac State’s Basic Needs case manager and CalFresh outreach coordinator. “Historically, services like CalFresh ... were misunderstood. We know from data that most people who use public benefits actually work one or more jobs and are using all the tools available to create a better future."
Muñoz said data also shows that 46 percent of Sac State's students need help getting adequate food. The planned event is meant to provide that assistance.
“CalFresh Outreach Day will be fun and welcoming," she said. "Just as we promote financial aid to help pay for students’ school expenses, we promote food aid to help pay for their groceries.”
CalFresh helps low-income individuals and families stretch their food budgets and allows them to incorporate fresh produce in their diets. The U.S. Department of Agriculture requires college and university students to work at least 20 hours a week to qualify, but some Sac State programs can waive that requirement.
Those programs – including Services for Students with Disabilities, Project Rebound, MESA Engineering, and Educational Opportunity Program – will have representatives present at the event to talk with students. Additionally, representatives from agencies such as Sacramento Covered and CALWORKS, which also can waive the work requirement, will be on site.
“Students can learn about the programs, maybe join a program, and then we will assist with their CalFresh application,” Muñoz said. “We’re trying to help students who qualify based on those exemptions to get connected.”
Students also may visit the campus Crisis Assistance & Resource Education Support Office (CARES) in the University Union for help with the CalFresh application.
An estimated 3 million Californians are eligible for CalFresh benefits but don't utilize them.
The need across campus is great, and growing. Last year, 2,164 students visited the Associated Students Inc. (ASI) Food Pantry a total of 9,074 times, a 43 percent increase over utilization of the service in 2018.
Many students share their food with family members. A survey revealed that the ASI Food Pantry ultimately provided nourishment for 18,469 people in 2019.
WHAT: CalFresh Outreach Day, a part of the California State University effort to connect food-insecure students with the federal nutrition program.
WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27.
WHERE: University Library Quad at Sacramento State, 1600 J St., Sacramento.