Food Insecurity from Young to Old

19 Feb

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This past week I had the opportunity to broaden my view of how food stamps (CalFresh) and food insecurity affect a broad age range, those getting ready to go out into the world (college students) and those who have already served (military vets). Despite the age difference, many of the challenges are the same.

I met with Jackie Molinero, a 3rd yr student at UCSB. Jackie comes from a Latinx household in Vallejo, CA. Her parents are both first generation immigrants and monolingual Spanish speakers. Both of them stressed to her the importance of education as a way to move forward. Jackie wants to do something to help people and her major is Political Science.

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Jackie had a very difficult first year at college due to serious food insecurity. She worked hard to budget and find a job. Money from financial aid all went towards rent, and there was very little left for groceries. Her parents gave what they could, but she had to rely on friends to help her when she had no money for food.
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In her second year, she found out about CalFresh (Food Stamps) which could provide her with up to $200 for groceries. She went to speak to a student advocate from the UCSB Associated Students food pantry to get help signing up.  She also was able to get a job as a CalFresh intern and help others sign up, doing advocacy work at outreach sites for 13 hours a week. Later she was promoted to being the communications intern for Calfresh, with a remit to create events to make the benefit more well known. She sees that it is still hard for some students to get past the stigma of asking for help and that there is a need to normalize food security resources. It can be difficult for students to sign up and stay enrolled. The application can be cancelled if it is not submitted on time. Students don’t have much time with classes and their work schedule, and it can be a struggle to get their documents together.

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Jackie Molinero in her role as CalFresh Communications Intern

CalFresh benefits are a huge help, but they’re not a magic bullet in solving campus hunger. Many students are not eligible for CalFresh. They may be undocumented or not able to meet one of the eligibility requirements of receiving the Cal Grant or working 20 hours per week. There are many students unable to get much financial aid who also can’t get help from parents, including members of the LGBTQ+ community who have been ostracized from the family. This is where the Associated Students Food Pantry helps, utilizing food that they get from the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County.

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