CSUN students who are in need of additional financial assistance may be able to receive extra money each month specifically for purchasing food.
The CSUN Food Pantry is offering students to the opportunity to apply for the CalFresh program and receive a consultation or “pre-screening” to see if they meet the eligibility requirements.
CalFresh or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is a county-run federal program that provides monthly food stipends to households in need.
The way the CalFresh outreach program works is that the food pantry acts as a liaison between the student applicants and the California Department of Social Services, securing the student a caseworker and establishing correspondence between the two, according to Jess Cardiel, a CalFresh Outreach intern from the Masters of Social Work program.
“What we’re doing is bridging the divide between the county and students who could be eligible,” said Karla Gonzalez, special projects coordinator at the Office of Student Involvement and Development. “Our job is to make sure that during the first thirty days of the eligibility process, they stay on top of their application and also receive and submit any of the necessary documents.”
CalFresh requires students who are between the ages of 18 and 49 to be enrolled in at least six units and meet at least one of several eligibility requirements. Students eligible for work study automatically qualify as long as they are enrolled in the minimum six units.
Eligible students can receive a maximum of $925 per month in CalFresh benefits, depending on their income and household size. According to Gonzalez, students receive on average about $150 per month.
The Office of Student Involvement and Development pushed this initiative forward as part of their mission to help students graduate on time, said Maria Elizondo, activities coordinator.
According to the 2016 study conducted by the CSUN Office of Institutional Research, there isn’t an exact number known on the number of students who face food insecurity, but 49 percent of students surveyed said they could use more information on resources available to help them.
“We want to help students graduate and what better way than to make sure they have one less stressor on their load,” Elizondo said. “It’s not possible to fully take advantage of your education when you don’t know where your next meal will come from.”
Once students are deemed eligible and pass all qualifications for CalFresh benefits, the monthly benefits are loaded onto an EBT card and can be used at any grocery store or food establishment that accepts EBT, as long as it is within Los Angeles County. CalFresh benefits cannot be redeemed for cash at ATM machines, nor can they receive cash back from any establishment.
International, DACA, and DREAM students are not eligible for CalFresh benefits.
*Correction: An earlier version of this article said that Jess Cardiel was a Food Pantry intern, it has been changed to show that she is an intern for the CalFresh Outreach program.