Schools Offer Food Help and More for Students
By Dianne Anderson
College students, sometimes called starving students, are known to subsist on ramen noodles, which is bad enough for individuals, but not enough for students with children.
During this COVID economy, local campuses are preparing for increased food demand as the holidays draw near.
Dr. Raymond Carlos, director of student life at San Bernardino Valley College, is seeing more families coming to the pantry with the little ones in tow because parents don’t have a job or a babysitter.
“A lot of our students are single parents with children at home. A lot of them had to choose between going to work or staying at home. They didn’t have a choice,” he said.
These days, students and families are likely visiting the food pantries closer to home, but the campus pantry averages about 85 students a month for bags of food and students. They also have an option to receive clothing at their Valley 360 Resource Center.
Help is available in signing students up for CalFresh, which offers additional supplements for those who qualify.
“Some of our students when they have families, with $204 a month they’ll make it stretch. Every dollar counts,” he said.
The www.calfresh.org website says students can receive CalFresh if they work at least 20 hours a week, or approved for state or federal work-study money and anticipate working during the term. Or, are a full-time student with a child under age 12.
Registered Valley College students can also use their ID as an Omnitrans bus pass to get to campus. Students can stop by the center for prepackaged bags of dry and frozen foods, including cereals, frozen vegetables and frozen pizza. The pantry is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Dr. Carlos knows there is a high population of housing insecure students, but it’s hard to tell how many are homeless.
“They live in their vehicles, We have students who couch surf, stay at friend’s places, we take that into consideration,” he said, adding that the campus has made food access a priority at this time.
“When we closed campus because of COVID, our administration said we really need to keep the pantry open, that it’s a necessity for our students and we need to keep the campus open no matter what,” he said.
CSUSB also participates in the San Bernardino Community Action Partnership Campus Covered Program.
Cal State University, San Bernardino offers its full-service food pantry at both the San Bernardino campus, and the Palm Desert Campus. At their Obershaw Den, they provide dairy products, bread, fresh fruits and vegetables, dried and canned goods, and include pasta, rice and beans, and protein, such as tuna.
Since the pandemic, they also provide hygiene products, all free to students.
“Typically, the value of the bag is roughly $30 worth of groceries. Especially now during the pandemic, for a single person, it would last five to seven days. Everything is a full pack,” said Natalie Cleary, CSUSB Basic Needs Coordinator at Student Affairs.
Because most students are not on campus, the food pantry often refers students out to local pantries so they don’t have to travel for food. In addition to the food pantry, Cleary said they have also established an emergency program last April at the campus to provide emergency funds through various grants and donors.
“We’ve issued about $120,000 to date with alternative aid for students. Students are receiving mini-grants between $300-500 based on their need, some up to $1,000 if it’s for housing. It’s to assist with basic needs,” she said.
Their office also pre-screens CalFresh applications and addresses questions for students about eligibility criteria. They use www.getcalfresh.org, which she said is a very student-friendly platform for applications.
Students are continuing to apply for emergency funds.
“About 90% [of students] are reduced from not only job loss, but reduced in hours because of the pandemic. A lot of our students work in service industry type jobs and are not full-time employees so their hours have been cut.”
On their Basic Needs website, students can access a host of information and help with food insecurity, financial insecurity and housing insecurity.
She said there is a definite increase in student inquiries, not just food-related.
“We’ve got a lot of requests because our students are all over the Inland Empire with calls for more of our grants, or grocery cards so the students have to come to campus weekly for food. But we have continued to be open on our campus for essential services,” Cleary said.
For more information see:
To access food, and a long list of other off-campus resources, see
For CSUSB, see https://www.csusb.edu/basic-needs/food-security/obershaw-den
To learn about qualifications to receive CalFresh, see http://mycalfresh.org/students/