Chico State students have options when running low on food


California ebt card. Photo credit: Diego Ramirez

According to the Chico Cares Campaign, a reported 8,000 students at Chico State suffer from food insecurity. Basically, whether it’s today, or in the future, chronic or now and again, they worry where their next meal will come from.

That’s the kind of worry that shifts a person into survival mode and can become almost paralyzing. I know because I’ve been there. The solution, of course, isn’t as straight forward as having food where there was none before. There is also an attitudinal shift required.

One temporary and tangible solution is the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry on campus . A student in need can pick up enough food for a meal or even food to get through the weekend.

A second and more permanent resource is CalFresh. Recently, CalFresh partnered with Chico State in establishing an outreach office on the campus.

This is a government entitlement program which provides a set monthly benefit amount for those that qualify to buy food of any sort at most stores. The benefits are issued onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card which looks like any other credit card.

The CalFresh Outreach will assist students in getting qualified and approved. Having the service on campus is a huge plus for students who may not have otherwise known the help was available or have been too embarrassed to go to the county government office and apply.

However, even with these services available, the stigma of receiving government assistance prevents many students from asking for help.

I vividly remember the day I finally realized I had been out of food long enough and was out of options which resulted in applying for CalFresh. I cried, only the tears were primarily because I felt I had failed.

The perception of entitlement programs in this nation is, for the large part, negative.

This is a country built on the American dream. A “pull up yourself by your own boot straps and make it happen” type philosophy. If a person is hungry it’s because they didn’t try hard enough to earn food.

That just isn’t true. A huge percentage of people fall into the category of ‘working poor.’ They work long and hard yet still live hand to mouth, day to day. They still technically live at poverty level. For many, the American dream, at least for today, isn’t just elusive, it’s unrealistic.

Students are no exception. Struggling to support themselves, sometimes working multiple jobs while attending classes full time, often isn’t enough. Still, everyone is entitled to sufficient healthy and nutritious food.

Imagine the word entitlement replaced by deserving. Now there is a program to serve those deserving of food which is every human being. This requires a change in perception.

I had to change mine. Now I see the larger picture and the life cycle I am a part of. For today, I accept assistance and am grateful. In the future and as soon as possible I hope to be helping the next person with theirs. And hopefully, it will continue that way for generations with shame being replaced by empathy and basic needs always met.

Nicole Ritchie can be reached at [email protected] or @byNicoleRitchie on Twitter.