Hot meals program helps fight food insecurity


Being a college student is stressful enough. With homework, commuting, attending class and trying to get enough sleep each night, students can understandably become stressed out. Unfortunately, over 40% of students will face another form of stress—food insecurity. Food insecurity is defined by the United States Department of Agriculture as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life.”

In 2017, the California State University system did a survey to gauge the basic needs of students throughout the university system. Firstly, they found that 10.9% of students experienced homelessness one of more times in the last 12 months. Secondly, they found that 41.6% of students reported food insecurity, and 21.6% of those experienced very low food security.

In order to combat this issue at CI, the Basic Needs and Emergency Intervention Program decided to step up their efforts in order to help students across the CI system by adding a new hot meals program. This new program allows students to receive credit on their Dolphin Card in order to get a hot meal at Islands Café.

Alicia Milanowski,  Basic Needs & CARE Coordinator, is excited about this new addition to CI. “It’s going to be an integral part of the Basic Needs Program,” said Milanowski. “The pantry only fills so much of a need and is only open for certain hours. In regard to accessibility and sustainability this just offers another option for students who don’t have access to food.”

In addition to starting the program, the communications department decided to help with the fundraising initiative. In this semesters Non-Profit Management class, the five sections are dedicating their efforts to raising money for the Hot Meals program.

“When we found out that the Hot Meals Program was going to be starting this year, it made sense for us to help out. Dr. Megan Schraedley was on board 112 percent and I was on board 110 percent,” said Dr. Jacob Jenkins, a Non-Profit Management management professor.

Students who are facing food insecurity now have two different ways to get food. First is the Dolphin Panty, a program that has been around for the last few years. Previously, the Dolphin Panty could only house dry and non-perishable foods as they didn’t have any refrigerators or freezers. That changed this summer and the Dolphin Pantry is now able to offer more for to students to take home with them.

The second and newest addition, is the Hot Meals program. If a student is looking for a hot meal, especially from CIs Islands Café, that will now be available to them.

“There are so many campus partners that are involved in this, said Toni Diboni, Dean of Students. “There were a lot of conversations about how we could have donations and have a hot meals donation program, without affecting the students with the meals program and raising their cost.”

Students can apply through the Basic Needs website and complete the self-referral. A quick survey will allow them to apply for any of the basic needs: housing, grants, and food.

In the one week that students or staff were able to donate through their meal plan, the Basic Needs Program was donated 253 meal donations, a number that blew away the program. “It was definitely more than anyone expected”, said Milanowski. The University is going to look at how this semester goes, collect data, and then review to see if they are going to extend the meal swipe donation period. For now though, if anyone is interesting in donating to the program, they are able to do so through the Basic Needs and Emergency Intervention Program website.

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