According to Feeding America, food insecurity is “a federal measure of a household’s ability to provide enough food for every person in the household to have an active, healthy life.” Food insecurity is such a big issue for students because it can affect your test scores, concentration, energy, academic standing, and lowers your chances of graduating. In addition, food insecurity affects the most vulnerable students ex. students who receive financial aid, students who are parents/ caretakers, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students, first-generation students, BIPOC, and more.
Unfortunately, students who are facing food insecurity are not accessing all the public benefits they could. The food insecurity among college students can get worse because families are losing income, medical bills are piling up, and folks are being forced to tap-in to their savings. However there are college, local, state and federal resources for you as a student.
Below is a list of food banks/ pantries that are accessible to you and your family at no cost, because no student should go upon not knowing when their next meal will be.
Free or reduced-cost services like medical care, food, job training and more can be found around your area! Food or reduced-cost services are services that are free or are at a reduced cost for people with low-income. These services are also available for people with undocumented status.
- Aunt Bertha is one of the largest and most used online social care networks for individuals looking to connect to Community Based Organizations (CBO’s) in the United States. To get started, input your zip code and Aunt Bertha will connect you with CBO’s near you. Financial assistance, food pantries, medical care, and other free or reduced-cost help starts here!
- The Employment Development Department (EDD) of the State of California provides to keep employers, employees, and job seekers competitive. This website provides additional resources that may help you.
- In many parts of California, you can call 2-1-1 to learn about resources in your community or contact these agencies and organizations directly to ask about their programs. Some programs may have eligibility requirements.
Reduced cost or free internet access:
- The Affordable Connectivity Program is administered by USAC with oversight from the Federal Communications Commission. With the FCC’s Affordable Connectivity Program, you can save on your bill and may be able to get high-speed internet for free.
- Spectrum Student Internet Packages offers high-speed internet for students and enough bandwidth to support multiple devices.
Information on low-cost computers:
Northern California: in English and Spanish
Southern California: in English and Spanish
Databases that include services for undocumented communities:
Luckily, financial aid covers most tuition and fees. Other expenses that arise from our college education are our personal expenses. Financial aid does not cover these, even though some of these expenses are related to college. Personal expenses include personal items such as laundry, going out to a movie, or eating out. Expenses vary from one student to the next based on their particular needs and lifestyle.
To learn more about personal expenses, download this guide Personal Expenses Explained. Guide provided by DecidED
Now, that you’ve chosen your college your next step is planning! Will you be dorming on campus or live at home? What meal option will you choose? These are new and sometimes confusing choices to make. Sometimes, your financial aid may not cover these costs. Be sure you know how much this will all cost, so you know how to budget. Each campus has its own system with unique options and prices. Make sure you know before you go.
To learn more about housing and meal options when comparing schools, download this guide Housing and Meals Explained. Guide provided by DecidED
Living in an off-campus apartment is a big adult move! There are lots of opportunities for growth and learning; a skill that is really mastered is knowing how to manage your living expenses. Living on your off-campus requires that you be extra cognizant of your costs. Read below for some helpful tips!
- Know all the fees involved
Rental spaces often require other payments besides rent. Some extra costs include, but are not limited to:
- Application fees. You may be charged for applying to space.
- Security deposits. At the beginning of your lease, rental spaces will often ask that you give about one month’s rent worth of money to them in addition to your first month’s rent.
- Parking fees. If you own a vehicle, your landlord may sometimes rent out a parking space for an additional fee. Do not always assume that parking is included in your rent price.
- Plan for furniture and household items
Some rental spaces may come furnished already, but most do not. Before you move, plan costs for items that are necessary. You may need to provide yourself with a bed, desk, dining table, kitchen tools, and more.
2. Be aware of your rental contract length
Not all leases are one year long. Some contracts are only six months long, while others may last up to 14 months. Verify how long your lease will be; this way, you will know how long you’ll have to pay for rent.
3. Keep track of utilities
Your rental contract will specify what utilities the space does and does not provide. In some cases, your space may provide all utilities to you. In other cases, your space may provide none of the utilities, leaving you to pay for services such as water, gas, trash, and electricity. Be aware of what you will be responsible for paying.
4. Track your food expenses
First, make sure that you are aware of CalFresh, and how the program can help you pay for groceries. If you do not qualify for CalFresh, however, know that you will need to plan for enough healthy meals.
5. Familiarize yourself with the commute
Know how much money you will be wasting on transportation. If you have to drive to campus, have an idea of how much money your gas will be. If you will ride public transportation, remember to include the fares in your budgeting.
Of course, seeing your costs listed out may be terrifying! Remember to make the best financial decision for you. Compare your costs to on-campus housing. Make sure that you know you are ready to take on the challenge. We believe in you!
College students experience many challenges throughout their higher education journey. Students face many challenges which can include family expectations, financial debt and dealing with mental health problems. One of these challenges include being food insecure. The Health Affairs calls it the “Invisible Epidemic” as 30% of all college students experience food insecurity at some point in their college career. Breaking this down further, 38% are from two year colleges and 20% are students at a four-year institution.
Recently a former Let’s Go intern, Nathen Ortiz, conducted a survey and asked the Let’s Go community if they experience food insecurity. 31.8% of respondents were community college students, 31.8% were CSU students, 9.1% were from a private institution, 27.3% were students at a UC institution. These students were asked a variety of questions related to food insecurity, such as if they also experienced housing insecurity, if their institution offered a food pantry and how accessible said food pantry was. About 45.5% of the respondents consider themselves food insecure, 31.8% do not consider themselves food insecure and 22.7% said they were not sure. From this data, it is gathered that almost 50% of the respondents were food insecure and from these correspondents, 60% also struggled with housing insecurity. Challenges that contribute to students struggling with food insecurity have to do with not receiving enough financial aid, having to pay for other expenses and bills, losing jobs, and having financial emergencies.
Suggestions students presented to address food insecurity among college students and improve food services in their institutions were:
- Institutions being more vocal of resources outside school like food banks and other food-related programs
- Giving leftover food to students
- Outreach programs and outside resources
- Grocery store gift cards
- Providing stipends or emergency funds for students in need
- Giving free meal swipes for students
- Providing free grocery food stamps and other forms of food insecurity support for eligible students
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget to families in need so they could purchase healthy foods for their familiy.
- Are eligible to participate in state or federally-financed work-study during the regular school year, as determined by the institution of higher education, or
- Have an expected family contribution (EFC) of $0 in the current academic year
Since April of 2020, SNAP has been aiding students who have faced financial difficulties. The program will continue to aid students into February of 2023.
According to an article by Marca, “On October 14, 2022, the Biden administration extended the federal emergency declaration due to the pandemic for an additional 90 days; therefore, the SNAP emergency allotment payments will continue through February 2023 – due to an automatic extra month provided by the program rules.”
To find out how to apply, or for other questions regarding your SNAP eligibility, contact your local SNAP office. In California, the California Student Aid Commission will send all students with a zero-dollar expected family contribution an informing letter about this new exception to the CalFresh student rule. Are students eligible for SNAP?
Students eligible for Cal Fresh can receive up to $250 or more in groceries. Students must meet the following requirements for the Cal Fresh program:
- Meet citizen requirements
- Fulfill at least one student requirement of the following list
- Meet Cal fresh financial eligibility
Students attending college more than half-time are not eligible for SNAP unless they meet certain specific exemptions and meet all other SNAP eligibility requirements.
Food insecurity has heightened due to the pandemic and it is getting harder to get access to healthy meals. Luckily, there are programs and resources out there, it is only a matter of finding out about these resources and sharing them with our peers. FoodFinder is here to help you!
FoodFinder is a resource that allows you to find food pantries near you! FoodFinder is a food pantry locator that shows you where you can find free food assistance in your neighborhood. All you need to do is enter your zip code to the map and pick the pin that is closest to you! Tap the pin you’d like to see where the food pantry is located and what their schedule is like.