Community college students are rapidly becoming one of the most food insecure populations in America. A recent survey of 4,000 community college students revealed that half of students were food insecure and 40 percent had struggled to find enough food to eat in the last thirty days.
Higher education has never been more important for breaking the cycle of poverty, but poverty is becoming an increasingly prohibitive barrier to a college degree. 65 percent of jobs now require post-secondary education, but community college costs have increased 28 percent since 2000. Only 26 percent of community college students seeking associates degrees earn them within three years, and the majority of those who don’t complete their degree cite financial reasons for leaving early.
Assistance to purchase healthy food is available through SNAP, called CalFresh in California. However, only 27 percent of community college students who are eligible for the program are enrolled. CalFresh is a monthly supplement to a household’s food budget that can offer community college students independence and food security, making the path to a degree more accessible. In turn, their family may also take another step toward breaking the cycle of poverty.
Our CalFresh Task Force recognized this important opportunity and chose to utilize our quarterly countywide meeting to begin the process of building CalFresh assistance into San Diego County’s community college system.
On May 26, 2016, nearly 50 CalFresh outreach organizations, community colleges and local state universities came together to build partnerships that connect more eligible students to CalFresh. Notably, San Diego Food Bank and Miramar Community College are now working together to develop a Fall CalFresh Application Clinic for Miramar students. This partnership will leverage the knowledge of the lifestyles and needs of Miramar students with the resources of campus and community-based organizations to help eligible students access CalFresh and a life-changing degree.
Collaborations such as this are an important step towards transforming San Diego County’s higher education infrastructure, making food security and a college diploma more accessible to all.