By Yeymy Garcia
If you’ve ever been to class hungry, worried about how you’re going to get your next meal or stressed about where you’re going to sleep tonight, CSUDH’s Basic Needs Committee is here to help you.
In 2016, the California State University launched the Basic Needs Initiative to identify the basic needs of students such as food and housing. In 2018, the “Study of Student Basic Needs” stated that 41.6% of the CSU students reported food insecurity, or “the state of having limited or uncertain access to food,” according to a New York Times story on March 2, 2019.
“A student may only have access to a banana, and they may break that banana into breakfast, lunch, and dinner because that’s the only access to food they may have,” Morgan Kirk, CSUDH basic needs coordinator, said. “Or someone who is experiencing homelessness [they] may live in their car or live on the streets or stay in a shelter or they are couch surfing until they are able to find secure housing.”
Every CSU campus either had programs in place before the initiative or has implemented them since.
CSUDH offers two food pantries, the CalFresh program and has a basic needs committee, chaired by Matthew Smith, interim associate vice president of Student Life.
“We direct [students] to different resources that can help them with their basic needs, because we know they are unable to focus in class because they are worried about where they’re going to sleep or when they’re going to get their next meal,” said Morgan Kirk, who took over the role of basic needs coordinator in March.
The committee consists of 23 full-time staff on campus who are passionate about helping students in terms of food, housing, and mental health, Kirk said. Some key partners to the committee are Student Health and Psychological Services, the University Advising Center, the Career Center, and EOP/ETE. Members from those departments and others work together to create new events and procedures for students to give students a sense of relief and ensure that their basic needs are being satisfied, Kirk said..
The need for this program at CSUDH is clear. More than 300 students accessed the Office of Student Life’s Food Pantry last fall. The new university housing Food Pantry was launched in April and 44 students have already taken advantage of it, according to Kirk.
Another food service that the committee provides is CalFresh, a monthly financial assistance program that utilizes EBT cards. You can find the application under “Food and Shelter Resources” on the CSUDH website. After you apply for CalFresh, you can also apply for a Hot Meal Card that can be used on campus dining.
In terms of housing, university housing helps a student in crisis for up to 10 days. Basic Needs has also partnered up with the non-profit organization PATH, People Assisting the Homeless, to help students find stable housing.
All these resources sound great, but how is all this getting funded? Through cooperation among the involved department and donations from faculty, students and staff.
Kirk initiates fundraising opportunities like food drives and donations. Her most recent campaign is Toros Helping Toros, where people donate food and hygiene products to the two food pantries on campus, as well as donated money on the Food and Shelter website at www.csudh.edu/student-services/food-shelter-resources/.
“It’s honestly a campus effort,” Kirk said. “Even though there is a coordinator in this position, we still need everyone’s input and hands in the bucket to help us get where we’re trying to get to help our students.”
Our two food pantries are located in The Office of Student Life in LSU 121 and in university housing.