The Basic Needs team at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) believes in helping students. Whether it be through assisting students with resources related to food security, the CalFresh application or farmers market vouchers, Basic Needs offers students the opportunity to have their lives transformed in healthy and sustainable ways.
CalFresh is a nutrition assistance program which helps low-income students receive monthly funds for purchasing groceries. When students don’t find themselves eligible for CalFresh, the Basic Needs team provides Otters with means to stock their pantries and fridges through Otter Groceries, the AS Food Pantry and vouchers for local farmers markets.
Joanna Snawder-Manzo, Care Manager of Basic Needs, has been working with the team for almost six years. Snawder-Manzo works directly with students to help assist them with physical, mental, academic and basic needs related concerns.
“Having been a college student myself at one time, I know that students often have limited funds and are just trying to piece everything together to make it work until graduation, when they can ideally get a good paying job,” Snawder-Manzo said.
“However, that is not how it works anymore,” Snawder-Manzo said. “With the rising costs of education and just the expense of living, many students are faced with graduating without such a job and a ton of debt.”
Snawder-Manzo’s previous experience working as a Title IX coordinator and women’s center director has allowed her to help students develop their identities and make sure their basic needs are being met.
Ashley Ramsden, Basic Needs Coordinator, has been with Basic Needs for two years. Her passion for helping and working with students comes from her desire to support students reach their educational goals and discover their dreams.
“I have a background in working with high school students who were involved in the foster care and juvenile justice systems,” Ramsden said. “I think my awareness of the struggles of even advancing to college from such challenging circumstances started there.”
Due to the pandemic, Basic Needs has been experiencing challenges ranging from funding and staffing shortages to an increase of students needing resources. When students returned home from campus in response to COVID, many Otters were facing food insecurities, but Snawder-Manzo and Ramsden were able to continue assisting students through online appointments and various virtual services.
“I am passionate about getting to know students and learning what motivates them and how we can support them along the way,” Ramsden said. “I would love to increase student awareness of our department, as well as continue to meet the needs of students in a timely, helpful manner.”
Basic Needs aims to dismantle the former stereotypes idolizing the “starving college kid,” while continuing to further individual opportunities with resources from mental, physical, emotional and nutritional.
“Not all situations, and therefore, solutions are one-size fits all,” Snawder-Manzo said. “Never make assumptions, you never know what a person might be going through unless they open up and share from their own voice.”
Otters looking to utilize Basic Needs should fill out a referral form at csumb.edu/basicneeds, which will be sent directly to their professional staff. Appointments are available through the website, and students can reach out via email or on social media. MyRaft offers the latest programs and events being hosted by Basic Needs.