By Brittanie Gutierrez |Staff Writer|
College can be—and is—expensive. Students often have to sacrifice certain things in order to afford their education, but food should never be one of them.
Assembly Bill 453 (AB-453) was presented to CA Legislature to fight student hunger among California State Universities by requiring campuses to implement a meal plan donation program on April 25.
AB-453 was introduced by Assembly Member Monique Limón after Assembly Bill 214 (AB-214), a bill that “would express the intent of the Legislature to enact legislation to reduce the incidence of hunger and homelessness among college students in California […] provide definitions of “on-campus food vendors” and “qualifying food facility” for purposes of this provision,” according to AB-214.
“This bill would require the trustees and the board of governors, and would encourage the regents, to designate as a “hungry free campus” each of its respective campuses that meet specified criteria. The bill would provide each campus that receives the designation shall receive a funding incentive,” according to AB-453.
The program requires that there be a campus employee to help students apply to CalFresh, a food stamp program in California
Young Invincibles (YI), an organization that was built on having young adults’ voices, “in the debate over health care reform,” according to younginvicibles.org, is pushing for the fight to end student hunger.
Christopher Nellum, Ph. D., Policy and Research Director for YI, stresses the importance of awareness of food insecurity among college students and how they should focus on their education rather than where their next meal would come from.
“The bill is really trying to raise awareness and have schools think about ways to be more proactive. Institutions would have someone from the staff to help students enroll to CalFresh and establish a food pantry. It is also trying to get schools to think about ways to donate,” said Nellum.
“Sometimes students have 20 meals in the dining hall, but only use 10. This bill wants to help create a way to donate those leftover meals to students suffering from food insecurity,” continued Nellum.
YI is an organization committed to the issue of ending student hunger because they, along with some of their partners, such as Swipe Out Hunger and Western Center on Law & Poverty, believe that students should never have to go through food insecurity and just focus on their education.
Currently, one in five CSU students go hungry and have to decide between paying for school and supplies or eating.
Out of the 23 CSU campuses, only 11 schools have programs for food insecure students, according to a CSU study.
One of those campuses is CSUSB, which has The DEN, a food pantry where students can get Day Packs with food and sometimes even gift cards to buy groceries.
“I’m pretty sure this will help a lot of people. I feel that this has to be talked about more so more people will be aware that such programs exist,” said student AnaKaren Alba.
Not every college campus in Calif. has a food pantry for their students and those suffering from hunger continue to suffer, which can affect their studies and motivation to finish school.
“We want to raise awareness,” said Allie Aguilera, press secretary for YI. “We believe this is an important issue to cover.”
“Food insecurity is an invisible experience,” continued Nellum. “We need to raise awareness. We’re better together.”
The DEN is open to any currently enrolled CSUSB student and is open every second and fourth Wednesday and Thursday of the month, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.