Last week, The College Post asked 20 students at the University of California, Santa Barbara the question: Do you think you eat enough? Out of those sampled, 13 responded that they do not. The most common reason why: “Because I’m broke.”
As captured in the students’ responses, college can be a financially stressful time. However, without a proper diet and nutrition, one cannot live up to their full academic potential. According to a survey conducted by AARP in 2018, those who eat nutritious foods frequently report feeling more mentally sharp.
Recognizing that a proper diet is not only detrimental for both mental and physical health, but for academic success as well, a new group at UCSB is helping eligible students receive the food they need to succeed.
The organization is called Food Security and CalFresh Advocates and they are facilitating a conversation between UCSB students and the Department of Social Services, the organization responsible for distributing CalFresh benefits to those who are eligible.
CalFresh, otherwise known on a federal level as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), “provides monthly food benefits to individuals and families with low-income and provides economic benefits to communities,” according to its website.
However, despite the benefits that students can receive from participating in the program, for many California students like Isaac Ortiz, the process of applying to CalFresh can seem extremely daunting.
“I heard about what CalFresh was my freshman year, but it always seemed too complicated to do it myself,” Ortiz told The College Post.
Jacqueline Molinero Gutierrez, a third-year political science major at UCSB, works as a communications intern for Food Security and CalFresh Advocates. By offering streamlined services, free of charge to students, the organization aims to address food security issues on campus, Gutierrez told The College Post.
Day-to-day, members of the organization meet with students to inform them about places and programs to access free or discounted food, as well as emergency support services. Furthermore, by holding financial literacy workshops and programs which teach students how to cook on a budget, the organization covers a wide variety of basic needs resources.
“[We] advocate for students and help them get in touch with the local county welfare departments,” Gutierrez said. “As long as they meet one of the eleven eligibility requirements, we can help them apply for CalFresh.”
Now a third-year student at UCSB, Ortiz has been receiving CalFresh benefits for approximately six months. He credited Food Security and CalFresh Advocates with aiding him through the application process and helping him achieve a healthier lifestyle overall.
“They made the entire process much easier,” Ortiz said. “It made dealing with the government less intimidating and now I can afford to buy more groceries and overall live healthier.”
Students interested in enrolling in the CalFresh benefit program can find the eligibility requirements on the Food Security and CalFresh Advocates website. Even if an applicant does not meet one of the requirements, the organization can point them to other available resources.