Fresno State Helps Hungry Students

Fresno State Program Helps Hungry Students

By Brian German, Associate Editor

 

California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) recently began a multi-initiative program to support students who are struggling with food insecurity. Jessica Medina, coordinator of the “Food Security Project” at Fresno State, said, “The project has five initiatives: an on-campus food pantry, education and resources, an app titled, “Catered Cupboard,” that shows students where on campus they can receive free food, complimentary meals at the university dining hall and the Good Samaritan Fund,” she explained.

Medina said the on-campus food and hygiene pantry, named, “Student Cupboard,” provides students with access to free food and hygiene on a daily basis. We also provide them with education—how to cook those things, how to budget, how to make sure they can afford different things as a student, and connections to resources such as CalFresh, the WIC program and other agencies in the community they can benefit from. We offer emergency funding if they ever need things, as well as lots of other initiatives that access fresh nutritious food,” she noted.

Medina said Fresno State is also a member of the College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA), a professional organization of campus-based programs focused on alleviating food insecurity, hunger, and poverty among college and university students in the United States. As of TODAY, there are 257 active member institutions of CUFBA.

Medina said such CUFBA members are growing in numbers. “We are starting to pop up on other campuses,” she stated, “and we are excited the chancellor of the CSU system, Chancellor White is going to be supporting a conference to have these conversations and create a model for other institutions for the future.”

Medina said students who go hungry are less likely to do well in their studies, “There are a lot of studies on what students are like in the elementary classrooms, but [food insecurity] continues on to college and beyond as well. When you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, when you don’t have that food access available to you, it is hard to concentrate. It is hard to focus. It is hard to be successful as a student. And that is what this program isa ‘student success’ program for our students.”

Hired as a fulltime employee by Fresno State to coordinate this, Medina commented, “I think we are one of the first campuses to create a full-time position to coordinate this effort. I graduated from Fresno State with both my undergraduate and master’s, and I am very fortunate to continue on here and be a part of this.”

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Links

 

CalFresh

California State University, Fresno

Catered Cupboard

College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA)

Food Security Project

Food Security Project Resources

Good Samaritan Fund

Students Covered

WIC program

World Food Day: Hunger is a Matter of Food Access, Even at Home

By Laurie Greene, California Ag Today Editor

“It is encouraging to see World Food Day observed today, a designation made possible by the inspiring work of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations,” says California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross in a statement released TODAY.

The goal of World Food Day is to eradicate hunger. Ross explains the world produces enough food to feed everyone; the ongoing problem is food access.

Globally, reports University of California, Davis, over 800 million people today suffer from malnutrition and hunger, nearly 15.9 million children in the U.S. struggle daily to get proper nutrition and approximately 18% of residents in this region lack regular access to food. Ross states, “In California, almost four million people are food insecure; they could not afford enough food at least once in the previous year.

World Food Day Logo

CDFA addresses access issues daily through its programs. Ross explains that CDFA’s Certified Farmers’ Market program has helped increase the number of markets statewide, providing communities with fresh, nutritious food directly from farms. Many of them now accept CalFresh cards used by California’s low-income families to obtain nutritious food. Likewise, CDFA’s Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program helps provide these foods to needy senior citizens.

CDFA’s Office of Farm to Fork connects school districts with local farmers and also helps teachers provide quality nutrition education to their students. Ross says, “I was very pleased to see these efforts play a role in bringing a truly exceptional honor this week to a group of Contra Costa County students – they were invited to the White House garden to meet First Lady Michelle Obama and help harvest vegetables for the White House kitchen!”

CDFA’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program provides USDA Farm Bill funds, nearly $20 million in 2014, through a competitive grant process for some specialty crops projects. Projects includ programs in Chico and Sacramento to improve access through community gardens for low-income residents and educational opportunities in both nutrition and urban production.

The California State Board of Food and Agriculture and CDFA collaborate to generate donations to state food banks. “We declare each December as Farm-to-Food Bank Month,” Ross comments, “and ask our farmers and ranchers to make a donation or a pledge.” Last year, donations exceeded 127 million pounds of food, and this year’s goal is 200 million pounds.

Ross continues, “We want to thank our partners at California Grown for its commitment to the food bank effort with its “Snap a Selfie” Program.” California Grown donates a pound of food to California food banks for every #cagrown selfie—a photograph of the CA Grown logo or anything grown or produced in California and is posted with ‘#cagrown’ in the posting on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook by end of this month. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations established World Food Day on October 16, 1981, the anniversary of the organization’s founding in 1945.

The 2014 World Food Day theme – Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth” – has been chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers. World attention will focus on the significant role of family farming in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas.

The UN General Assembly has designated 2014 “International Year of Family Farming.” This is a strong signal that the international community recognizes the important contribution of family farmers to world food security.

Eight days after World Food Day, held every October 24th, “Food Day” organized by the Washington, D.C.-based, nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), aims to unite Americans to celebrate and enjoy real food and to push for improved food policies. “Real Food, Just Food”is the 2014 slogan.

Sources: CDFA, UC Davis Dateline, FAO of the UN, CSPI

California Program Helps Needy Families Buy Fresh Produce at Farmers Markets

Source:  Claire Fleishman

With tight budgets and children to feed, recipients of federal nutrition assistance were rarely seen at farmers markets, where the words “affordable” and “fresh” didn’t often mix. That is changing, thanks to a state program that is in line to get a big boost in federal support.

More and more recipients are stepping up to market managers’ tables, swiping their card from CalFresh (nationally known as SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and getting a bonus good for fresh produce.Under the Market Match Program, CalFresh recipients can get $10 a week in bonus scrip for fruits and vegetables for every $10 they spend at farmers markets. Over 30,000 CalFresh participants have used the scrip at 130 markets statewide, creating more than $1 million in additional income for farmers at these markets.

Locally, the bonuses are available at a number of farmers markets, including Altadena, Long Beach and Canoga Park. Federal and state officials are trying to expand the bonuses to other farmers markets to help stem an old problem: low-income recipients using federal nutrition assistance to purchase unhealthful products, particularly high-sugar sodas and junk food.

The matching money comes from the California Market Match Consortium, which was founded five years ago by farmers market operators and community organizations. The consortium is funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture and a variety of private donors. Recently the Los Angeles County agency First 5 LA, which draws on tobacco tax money to help programs benefitting young children, became a partner.

More funding is on the way. The 2014 Farm Bill allocated $100 million over the next five years for incentive programs. A new California Assembly bill proposes a Market Match Nutrition Incentive Fund of $2.75 million per year for five years, to maximize capture of federal dollars. With these funds, all 854 markets in California could participate. SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, feeds one in seven people in the nation. It dispenses $8 billion in California. But beneficiaries of the program, especially children, also suffer high rates of obesity and diabetes, which have been linked to cheaper, sugary foods.

California has the most cases of diabetics in the nation, and spending in the state to treat the disease in 2012 approached $28 billion, according to American Diabetes Association data. New York City tried to ban the use of SNAP funds for buying high-sugar drinks in 2010. Beverage manufacturers and some civil libertarians objected, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which runs SNAP, vetoed the idea.

In lieu of curbing the supply of junk food — a politically unattractive option — public health advocates are working hard to change the demand by making healthful foods cheaper and more attractive.

Carle Brinkman of the Berkeley-based Ecology Center, which assists farmers markets statewide with implementation of electronic benefit transfer programs, said, “Instead of being punitive, we like to incentivize (healthful) food choices. We can give customers who wouldn’t normally shop at farmers markets a boost, and at the same time, send additional funds to small- and medium-size farmers.”

The question now is: Will the incentives change decades of entrenched habits? Initial signs are positive. In Massachusetts, a USDA Healthy Incentives pilot project followed 55,000 SNAP households for a year; some were credited with 30 cents for every dollar spent on targeted produce. Spending on fruits and vegetables was higher for those receiving incentives at a rate that was both “statistically significant and … nutritionally relevant,” the study concluded.

And a recent survey by the California Consortium found that nearly 3 of 4 Market Match shoppers came specifically for the match. They leave with bags of fresh produce and new ideas from nutrition classes frequently held in conjunction with Market Match.

At one market recently, a rapt audience of about 20 women and children absorbed a “Rethink Your Drink” lesson as a dietitian stirred a frosty pitcher of ice water laced with mint and cucumber slices. Delicious, several women agreed, and even cheaper than soda.