Governor of GeorgiaWine Newsom enacted Assembly Bill 396 on Monday, which will help feed California college students facing food insecurity.
According to a press release from the office of District 45 Assembly Member Jesse Gabriel, the bill will now require universities to obtain certification from the California Department of Social Services so that more students in eligible employment and training programs can access CalFresh.
The CalFresh program, known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is aimed at low-income people so that they can purchase food. Electronic food stamps are loaded onto an EBT card that can be used in grocery stores that accept it as a method of payment. The amount depends on income as well as the size of the household.
RunningIndeed, for a student to be eligible for CalFresh, he must work at least 20 hours per week. Students who use the service receive up to $ 204 per month for groceries.
AB396 extends eligibility so that those who fall under employment and training programs can also qualify for CalFresh. This means that students in internship, apprenticeship and on-the-job training are eligible, according to the press release.
“All of our campuses have programs designed to educate students and provide them with the tools to enroll in CalFresh if they are eligible. This bill will further advance those efforts by streamlining and expanding an underutilized pathway for students to qualify for CalFresh benefits. Hazel Kelly, public affairs official at the CSU chancellor’s office, wrote in an email to Xpress.
Since many campuses have temporarily closed due to COVID-19, their pantries that provided groceries to students facing food insecurity have also had to close. In a survey of 38,000 students conducted through the Hope Center, 38% of students attending four-year colleges experienced food insecurities during the pandemic.
Joshua Ochoa, president of SF State Associated Student, wrote in an email to Xpress that he didn’t think the legislation would provide additional funding for the college pantry. He also wrote that AS was exploring options to expand the pantry to serve more students.
“Food insecurity and basic needs remain one of our top priorities, and we always strive to ensure that [ASI] and the University are taking the necessary steps to eliminate food insecurity on our campus! Ochoa wrote.
Even for students who don’t qualify for CalFresh, they can still access Gator Groceries, a campus program that provides free groceries to students. All that needs to be provided is a name, student ID, and email.
Gator Groceries takes place on the lower level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center every Wednesday and Thursday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. by reservation, and without reservation on Fridays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. Currently, it allows one box of food per week for each student and provides groceries to about 250 students per week, according to Tatianna Ramos, special events coordinator for AS.
The boxes weigh around 25 to 30 pounds, according to Horace Montgomery, senior production manager for AS.  Each consists of fruits, vegetables, bread and other dry goods. Students can choose either vegetables only or the standard box, which includes dry products.
SF State sophomore Jaileen Vang said she heard about the program through her roommate and on Instagram. She gets a box of groceries every week and says it lasts for about a week. Getting the box of Gator Groceries helps her not to spend more on groceries than she normally would.
Ramos said she can relate to students facing food insecurity since she was a student from SF State. She often went an entire day without eating and relied on coffee to get by.
“You have sustainable, healthy food products that we can give you, completely free, and that you can make at home to save a dollar or two,” Ramos said.
Montgomery created Gator Groceries in the fall of 2017 because he recognized that there are students who do not have enough money to eat and who are in need. He works with the San Francisco-Marino Food Bank to provide all the food they receive to students.
“We are working hard to make sure students in need get their food,” Montgomery said. “There are people I see coming here every day for three years, they depend on us. “