CSULB food drive collects 1,782 meals for students

January report found more than 40 percent of CSU attendees not receiving nutritional foods.


Sebastian Echeverry | Signal Tribune

The Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Beach Pantry allows students who are struggling to afford food to supply themselves with nonperishable foods.

Over 1,782 meals were donated by students for students during California State University, Long Beach’s Feed a Need food drive this past weekend.

Jeff Klaus, associate vice president for CSULB’s Student Life & Development, said that over 50 percent of the more than 2,500 on-campus-housed students donated meals from their Residential Dining Options, or meal plans, to the Feed a Need event.

Students who are experiencing shortages of nutritional foods are able access the donated meals via the student emergency intervention and wellness program, according to Klaus.

Students in need can have meals scanned onto their campus ID cards and eat at one of the three residence dining halls. The Feed a Need food drive event was first started in 2015, according to a school press release last week.During previous events, students donated more than 1,300 meals to help fellow classmates.

“Long Beach State students model the way of support and are an example for the entire California State University system,” Klaus said in the press release.

The food can now help students experiencing “food insecurities,” which is over 40 percent of students enrolled at CSUs, according to a basic-needs report commissioned by the California State University Chancellor’s Office earlier this year.

Dr. Rashida Crutchfield, a principal investigator of the study, said that food insecurity means people are skipping meals and feeling hungry because they cannot afford to purchase nutritional foods.

“If I have low food security, it means I might be able to eat food, but that food might not have the nutritional quality that really enables me to function properly,” Crutchfield explained to the Signal Tribune. “A lot of students talk about eating rice, beans or soup, not because they are mismanaging their money, but because they don’t have enough money to afford better food. There are physical and mental repercussions of being low-food secure.”

The three-phase study began in 2015 and was commissioned by Dr. Timothy White, the chancellor of California State University. The first phase was released in 2016, and it primarily focused on faculty, staff and administration perceptions of the issue.

To collect data for the second phase, which officially released early this year, Crutchfield said the investigators distributed surveys to all 23 campuses, and they conducted interviews and focus groups throughout 11 different CSUs.

Tiffany, a California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) student at the time of the study, whose full name was not disclosed, is featured in the findings, mentioning her difficulty in obtaining nutritional food.

“It’s been difficult,” Tiffany said, per the report. “In the beginning, when I first got here, I didn’t really have a lot of money, and I didn’t have any grants. So, basically, what I used to eat three days out of the week was Minute Maid and chips, and that’d be it. I had maybe a dollar, and then I had to make it, like, stretch out [throughout] two days […]. I wouldn’t eat anything, ‘cause I didn’t have any money.”

Courtesy California State University
The California State University Chancellor’s Office commissioned a basic-needs report that released earlier this year. The report states that more than 40 percent of CSU students experience food insecurity. Dilbert, a California State University, San Bernardino student at the time of the report whose full name was not disclosed, was featured in the study, mentioning that he felt guilty for taking supplies from his school’s food pantry because he is considered “food insecure” but not “low food insecure” like others.

The study also breaks down the demographics that experience the most food insecurity.

The rate of food insecurity for women, 42.6 percent, was slightly higher than for men, 39.3 percent, according to the report. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students, 44.6 percent, and Dreamers, 46.7 percent, had higher-than-average rates of food insecurity.

The study also found that 10.9 percent of CSU students reported experiencing homelessness one or more times in the last 12 months, based on the combined Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education definitions.

Crutchfield said that the percentages of homeless and food-insecure students are not intended to be compared.

“We are taking a holistic view of student success,” she said. “People often look at academics and isolate it to education, specifically in what happens in the classroom, but we know from the K-12 system that if the student doesn’t have a place to live or doesn’t have food in their stomach, then it’s really hard to learn.”

Crutchfield told the Signal Tribune during a phone interview last Friday that this study is the first and largest of its kind. She added that additional commission funds would need to be collected in order to conduct more of these kinds of studies in the future.

CSULB officials also offer food-insecure students nonperishable meals and supplies at the on-campus food pantry.

Iraida Venegas, University Student Union assistant director of services, spoke to the Signal Tribune last Friday about the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Beach Pantry.

With a current ID card, students can take up to 15 items per week, but no more than five items per day.

She said that when it first opened in 2016, she noticed 2,300 visits were made to the pantry. Earlier this year, during the 2018 spring semester, Venegas said 7,286 visits were made.

Venegas also mentioned tech-driven strategies that can help feed students, such as the Beach Bites app, which can be downloaded onto most smartphones. When an event on campus has leftover food, the app will notify students that there is available food to take with them from the event.