The DEN: fighting food insecurity

By Brittanie Gutierrez |Staff Writer|

Food insecurity is a topic that is rarely brought up, often excused by the thought “not happening to me, so it must not be happening.” But it’s more common than we think.

According to the California Association of Food Banks, one out of eight Californians suffer from food insecurity, that’s 5.4 million people that do not know where or when they will be getting their next meal.

The DEN is CSUSB’s very own food pantry that provides students who are going through food insecurity with food and hygiene products.

“Our food bank is unique in that it is almost exclusively stocked by the campus. When we look at other campuses, they have external grants or have other moneys that are put in,” said Office of Community Engagement Director Diane Podolske, Ph. D.

“…But it’s ASI, the students and the faculty, and it’s clubs and organizations, a couple of alumni—and then our staff—have been amazing and all of us together. Our Coyote community are the ones that are making it happen,” Podolske continued.

The DEN has been around since 2015, and has since seen a steady increase in the number of donations. So much so, that they are currently under renovation to incorporate refrigerators so fresh donations can be given out to those in need.

A student experiencing food insecurity can go to the Faculty Office building, room 236, or around campus to designated areas, such as Recreational Sports, Veteran’s Success Center, or Health Center, and present their Coyote I.D. to show they are a current student.

There, they receive either Day Packs, grocery store gift cards, or weekly meal bag. If additional assistance is needed, the DEN provides resources on places where students can go to receive more help.

“The DEN is essentially is a way to try to support students so they can focus on what’s important. We try to help their needs wherever and however it is,” said Associate Director of the Office of Community Engagement Bryant Fairley.

After Assembly Bill 453 was presented to CA Legislature, hopes in changing the stigma behind food programs, such as CalFresh, have grown.

Under the bill, CSU campuses will have an employee assist students in enrolling into CalFresh, a government program that provides low-income families with food benefits, according to cdss.ca.gov.

“It’s reframing the conversation [CalFresh] as opposed to thinking of it as a welfare program to a program that is a nutrition program that is really focused on helping those who are underemployed. In order to qualify for the CalFresh program you have to have a job. I think that changes the convo of who a cal fresh recipient is,” continued Fairley.

Food insecurity does not have a face or a certain look; it’s something we need to be aware is happening around us.

Donations are always welcome and can be dropped off in the Faculty Office Building, room 236.

The DEN is open the second and fourth Wednesdays and Thursdays of the month, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3.p.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, contact the Office of Community Engagement or visit engage.csusb.edu.

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