The Basic Needs Initiative at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) ensures that students have access to the resources necessary for success, including affordable housing and food. A study conducted in the Fall of 2016 found that over half of CSUMB students surveyed experience food insecurity, which includes anxiety regarding food availability, shortage of food, decreased quality or variety of food, and irregular eating schedules.
The same study also discovered that 15.9 percent of those surveyed have experienced homelessness or housing insecurities within the last year, both of which indicate that students at CSUMB are undergoing more issues regarding their basic needs not being met than their CSU counterparts.
Organized in 2016 by the Associated Students of CSUMB, the AS Food Pantry provides an average of 300 students per event with a bag of fresh produce and non-perishable staples in collaboration with The Food Bank for Monterey County- common items include apples, oranges, potatoes, canned tuna, boxed cereal, granola bars, and bread loaves.
All students are available to receive assistance with their ID card regardless of their extent of food insecurity, meal plan, or income. Confirmed dates that the Food Pantry will be taking place during the Fall of 2018 include September 19, October 23, November 8 and December 4- all of which are held in the Student Center West Lounge and will occur twice throughout the day, once in the morning and once in the evening. A special pilot event will also occur on October 10 in the form of a free federal-aid pantry with more details to be released as the date approaches.
In addition to the AS Food Pantry, CalFresh is a nutritional assistance program funded by the USDA that is also available to the students of CSUMB coming from low-income families. Eligibility and the amount of benefits provided depend on factors such as household size, income, and monthly expenses, though applicants are not required to be on welfare and any existing financial aid will not be affected.
Benefits are awarded through an EBT card that is accepted at participating stores and operates like a free debit card, totaling up to $193 monthly that students can use to purchase fresh produce with in order to sustain a healthy lifestyle- participating stores include, but are not limited to, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, Safeway, and Target.
The Otter Snacks Map, accessible on the CSUMB website, features an abundance of local farmers markets, food pantries, markets and grocery stores that provide an assortment of fresh fruits and vegetables. CSUMB hopes to encourage mindful eating habits among students by increasing their awareness of off-campus resources where healthy and affordable cuisine is readily available, as well as support, but not endorse, local vendors.
Debuting this fall is the Basic Needs Initiative’s newest program, FreshAccess, enabling 20 students with the opportunity to spend up to $20 a week at their local Everyone’s Harvest farmers markets through November 19, 2018. Requirements for this program include a pre-assessment of the student’s eating habits and food accessibility, as well as a weekly commitment to attend an Everyone’s Harvest market and the mandatory market expedition departing from campus via the Monterey-Salinas Transit on September 16.
Considering this is the program’s first attempt at execution, participants will be asked to also complete a post program assessment that will be used to inform administrators of the program’s effectiveness regarding food security among CSUMB students and the utilization of local rural produce.
For more information about the Basic Needs program, visit their website https://csumb.edu/basicneeds.