College Student Advocacy Results in Policy Change That Will Improve Anti-Hunger Initiatives in Higher Education
Too many college students in California face challenges in meeting their basic needs. Up and down the state, student advocates have raised awareness about food insecurity and college hunger and have contributed to the development of new campus and state policies and the expansion of campus food pantries. At the state level, legislative leadership and the Governor’s acknowledgement that student hunger is an unacceptable issue for Californians, resulted in a one-time $7.5 million dollar investment — $2.5 million each for the CC, CSU, and UC systems — in the FY18 budget, which will be used to incentivize schools to establish innovative programs to respond to and combat hunger on campuses and ultimately achieve a “Hunger-Free Campus” Designation.
This particular initiative was championed by Assemblymember Monique Limón (D-Santa Barbara), who spent 14 combined years at UC Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara City College, and saw first hand the devastating effects hunger and food insecurity had on students. Assemblymember Limón believes the state’s investment in fighting college hunger is a win for California’s students. This funding, she says, will make a real difference in students’ lives by addressing the challenges posed by food insecurity and, ultimately, give students the best opportunity to complete their degrees successfully.
Specifically, a campus will be eligible for the Hunger-Free Designation and incentive funding if it:
- Designates a campus employe to assist students in navigating the the CalFresh – California’s food stamp program – enrollment process.
- Has or maintains an on-campus food pantry or regular food distribution on campus in partnership with a local food bank or pantry.
- Establishes a voluntary meal sharing program such as Swipe Out Hunger that allows students to donate unused meal plan credits to other students or to support the on-campus food pantry.
Christopher Nellum, Policy and Research Director at Young Invincibles, said , “We’re happy to see the state make this critical investment in combating student hunger, an issue that prevents far too many people in our state from finishing their education and thriving. Many years of student advocacy led us to this moment – the groundswell of support from young people across California for innovative solutions to student hunger resulted in a significant budgetary commitment from the state that will enable schools to address this issue on their campuses.
We’re proud to have cosponsored the legislation (AB 453) that these funds support and to have elevated the urgency of the issue through testimony and in partnership with student journalists around the state. We are immensely grateful for the leadership of Assemblymember Limón and the expertise of our partners and fellow cosponsors at the Western Center on Law & Poverty and Swipe Out Hunger. We look forward to working with our small but mighty coalition, student leaders, and administrators to ensure that students’ needs and concerns remain at the forefront as we move to implementation.”