Chico State takes the lead in combating student hunger


Food pantry at the Center for Healthy Communities. Photo credit: George Johnston

A recent report released by the California State University chancellor’s office found 24 percent of students in the CSU system go hungry.

That’s almost half a million people.

According to the report, 12 CSU campuses have no resources for to help their students with food security.

Chico State, however, was praised by the report for providing above average assistance for students facing food insecurity. The report has put Chico State in the spotlight as a trailblazer for student health, and now more CSU campuses are looking to the resources provided at Chico State as an example for their programs.

According to the report, Chico State is estimated to have 41 percent of students with food insecurity, much higher than the state average. To support the high number of hungry students, Chico State started the Hungry Wildcat food pantry and the CalFresh enrollment program.

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Jenny Breed, the health education specialist at the CHC, talks about the impact of the organization on student hunger. Photo credit: George Johnston


“If you do not have access to nutritious food on a regular basis, you don’t know when your next meal is coming or where it’s coming from and it’s not of nutritional value, then you could be considered food insecure,” said Jenny Breed, health education specialist for the Center for Healthy Communities

Students fitting this definition are the kind of people that Breed and her interns assist every day. They encourage students to take part in the CalFresh program.

“CalFresh is a federal program administered through our local county social services office,” Breed said. “Last year we enrolled 900 students in the CalFresh program.”

Jenny Breed points out informational posters in her CHC office. Photo credit: George Johnston


The CalFresh program gives people money and tokens to purchase food. Recently, the CHC paired up with local farmers markets so CalFresh money could be exchanged for fresh produce there.

Veggie Bucks is another program Chico State uses to help hungry students.

“Students can take their Veggie Bucks over to the OVP on campus on Wednesdays and actually exchange it for fresh fruits and vegetables,” Breed said.

The CHC is not only setting an example for other CSUs, but for the rest of the community in the Chico area as well. As an intern for the CHC, Aden Osoria is part of the team to expand the influence of the program to the community.

“It’s a lot of finding how different organizations can help out,” Osoria said. “It’s expanded to Butte College, it’s expanded to Yuba College, so it’s a lot of setting an example and taking it to other campuses around the area.”

Aden Osoria, senior health science major, interns for the CHC. Photo credit: George Johnston


On March 28, all 23 CSU campuses had a conference call discussing the chancellor’s report and how the campuses can provide better assistance to students. “We just got support from the chancellor’s office to take our CalFresh outreach program and take it to all the campuses,” Breed said.

While Chico State has been praised for its food programs, the college still has a lot of work to do to combat the high levels of student hunger.

“I would really love to find some funding to support more cooking classes,” Breed said. “Having the food is one piece of it, but knowing what to do with the food is the other piece of it.”

The ultimate goal for the CHC is to destigmatize student hunger.

“We want CalFresh to be just as normal as financial aid so that anyone who is getting CalFresh feels like it’s not a big deal,” Breed said. “We strive really hard to normalize it and that’s what we do a lot of, that’s how we’ve enrolled so many students.”

To support the efforts of the CHC with the Hungry Wildcat food pantry and CalFresh enrollment, anyone can donate food or money.

Breed says what everyone can contribute by knowing the CHC is “not just giving food, it’s supporting the idea that we don’t know what hunger looks like.”

Elizabeth Helmer can be reached at [email protected] or @lizziehelmer on Twitter.