Butte Station opens up to CalFresh students to fight food insecurity


Chico State’s Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry celebrated outside of Butte Station as the popular convenience store became the newest location on campus to allow students to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer card as payment since January. 

On Thursday outside the station, volunteers with the Wildcat Food Pantry played music and games and tabled with fresh food samples from local community resources. 

Along with the food pantry, the Butte County Department of Employment and Social services was also in attendance to present and assist in the enrollment process for the Medi-Cal program — which students can receive assistance for at Chico State’s counseling center. 

“The County is here to support the university and we want anybody who’s eligible for CalFresh and Medical to apply and make it as easy as possible,” said Karen Watson from Butte County Medi-Cal program navigators. 

CalFresh is the food supplement program for California from the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Students who qualify for CalFresh may receive up to $192 a month to buy nutritious food at stores such as WinCo Foods, Safeway, Target and even at farmer’s markets downtown. 

According to the Chico State Basic Needs Project’s website, a 2018 California State University survey found that students at Chico State experience food insecurity at a rate of 50 percent. 

The Basics Needs Projects includes the Hungry Wildcat Food Pantry as well as the CalFresh Outreach program, which work to battle hunger on campus. 

“Our students are stressed about many things — two of those in particular being food and housing, and so we as a campus need to be a resource and respond,” Health Education Specialist and CalFresh Campus Educator Emily Foxworthy said. “We started offering our CalFresh outreach and application assistance.” 

The CalFresh program application is available online, however branches like CalFresh Outreach have trained staff to help those who qualify go through the process quickly and smoothly. At Chico State, the CalFresh Outreach program is located in the Student Services Center, room 196. 

“We’ve grown and our campus has really supported us — to the point where it’s totally normal to step inside the pantry and get food,” Foxworthy said. “It’s a normal thing to do — to access the pantry and access CalFresh.” 

Before the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits program reached Butte Station, Chico State opened Urban Roots inside the Bell Memorial Union Atrium. 

“AS (Associated Students) Dining have been incredible partners in increasing our CalFresh access on this campus, and it’s very unique to have CalFresh ability on a campus,” Foxworthy said. “They first started at Urban Roots which was created for the EBT of CalFresh user — everything in that store is CalFresh eligible so the student doesn’t have to worry (that) what they are choosing won’t go through with CalFresh.” 

Explaining that students shouldn’t have to battle hunger where they’re expected to learn, Butte Station was waiting for its update. 

“We know a lot of students are in the heart of campus and back in forth and really want some healthy snack options,” Foxworthy said. “Not only is it totally normal to be up and running on CalFresh, we want you to stay on campus and swipe your card.” 

Kimberly Morales can be reached at [email protected] or @kimberlymnews on Twitter.