Fresno State Student Cupboard program aims to curb student food insecurity

The current Farm Market offers a variety of produce from Fresno State. The new location will be just south of the current building. Ezra Romero / The Collegian

The Fresno State Student Cupboard will make its inaugural launch today as part of a campuswide effort to end student hunger and in honor of National Hunger & Homeless Awareness week.

The Food Security Project, which started earlier this semester, contains seven different initiatives to combat student hunger. Several initiatives, like the cupboard, were created after a survey was conducted on campus to examine food insecurity at Fresno State.

One in three Fresno State students suffer from food insecurity on campus, according to a study by Fresno State public health professor Alida Espinoza.

With California being home to a $35 million agricultural industry, project coordinator

Jessica Medina said that it may be hard for many to realize food insecurity on campus.

“With all that we have around us, it doesn’t make sense that we have hungry students and community members, but the reality is that we do,” Medina said. “We are so fortunate to have the support of a lot of the growers in the area to support programs like the Student Cupboard and Community Food Bank.”

The cupboard, which will provide current Fresno State students with access to healthy food and hygiene products, is just one attempt Fresno State President Joseph Castro said will play a crucial role in the success of students.

“A student cannot reach his or her full potential in the classroom if they are worried about where their next meal will come from,” Castro said. “That’s why the issue of food security is so close to my heart. The Student Cupboard is an example of how this campus community comes together to care for those who need a helping hand.”

Fresno State vice president of student affairs Frank Lamas was tasked by Castro to research the issue and said students shouldn’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

“Symbolically, I wanted to make sure that we opened the cupboard before Thanksgiving and Christmas, particularly for students who are hit hard during this time” Lamas said. “I wanted to make sure they had an opportunity.”

In 2012, according to the nonprofit organization Feeding America’s Hunger in America report,  14.5 percent of U.S. households were food insecure. In California, 17.4 percent of households were food insecure and, in Fresno specifically, 20.8 percent.

With the prevalence of food insecurity on a national scale, raising awareness through presentations offered through the program and demonstrations like the National Hunger Week are essential, Medina said.

“Spreading awareness is such an important thing, because food insecurity is something that no individual should struggle with,” Medina said. “We don’t want our students having to make the decision between buying books for class or eating a meal today.”

Other initiatives on campus already in effect include value menu items and gift certificates at the North Gym Paws-N-Go Market, educational resources for CalFresh, WIC, and other programs that students may be eligible for, and the Good Samaritan Fund, applications for which are available online.

New initiatives planned for the future include the Food Security Project mobile app, as well as the missed meals program, which will work with resident dining to reallocate funds from unused meal plans to students.

Medina said that although there are many initiatives on campus, it may be difficult to reach student needs.

“Getting feedback from students can be tricky,” Medina said. “We know that sometimes the students we need to hear from won’t always be the ones to speak up.”

Medina compared the Food Security Project to other service based programs on campus, such as Career Services and the Health Center.

Students who use the Health Center when they’re sick or career advising for interviews, she said, are exactly the same.

“I hope that the food security project can become a part of campus just like all other service areas on campus,” Medina said. “Students come to get advising, use the Health Center when they’re sick, seek career advising and the Career Services office. I want them to think of the Food Security Project in that same way. We are here to help students be successful.”

The student cupboard will be located in the Post Harvest Building, the former farm market, on Chestnut and Barstow avenues. It will be open to all current students from Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 12 p.m and 3 to 5 p.m. The official launch is open to the public and starts today at 2 p.m.


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