The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended making the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility requirements more accessible, based on a report which found that less than half of the 3.3 million college students who were eligible in 2016 applied to SNAP.
SNAP, the largest food assistance program in the United States, provides nutritional assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families. Recipients can use the program to purchase food from a variety of grocery stores and farmer’s markets, including Vons, Whole Foods, and Trader Joe’s in La Jolla. Known as CalFresh in California, the program helped move more than 800,000 Californians out of poverty between 2013 and 2015, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.
UC San Diego’s Undergraduate Experience Survey (UCUES) found that 41 percent of undergraduates have experienced food insecurity, and 30 percent of undergraduates did not have enough money for food in the last 12 months. Food insecurity is also linked to low graduation rates and poor academic performance.
“[CalFresh] helped me to decrease my worry over how much of my paycheck was going to groceries—I make like $300 and I spend like $60-$100 on groceries—so it was really nice,” third year Muir student Belén Robles said. Because of CalFresh, Robles was also able to buy produce she had previously avoided due to cost.
Currently, on-campus resources that address basic needs insecurity include The Hub and the Triton Food Pantry. The Triton Food Pantry has received over 10,000 visits since fall quarter, according to UCSD Communications Officer Christine Clark. The pantry has also recently extended its hours to accommodate more students. The Hub provides students with essential resources such as cooking tutorials, free food, and assistance with the CalFresh application.
To support students at the system-wide level, the UC Board of Regents created a Special Committee on Basic Needs in November 2018 to investigate the lack of basic needs within the UC system. The committee will release a report in two years detailing ways the system can improve to better support students.
“[Student Regent] Devon and I are committed to ensuring that efforts to connect students to CalFresh benefits continue to increase across the UC,” said UC Student Regent-designate Hayley Weddle. “We are also committed to addressing gaps for students who are not eligible for CalFresh through advocacy [and] the creation of campus-based meal assistance programs.
Tajairi Neuson is a Staff Writer for The Triton. You can follow him @tajairi.