Cal Poly receives $130,000 CSU grant to help fight homelessness, hunger

Forbes Magazine selected Cal Poly as the best public master’s university in California when the publication released its list of America’s Top Colleges in 2018 on Tuesday.
Forbes Magazine selected Cal Poly as the best public master’s university in California when the publication released its list of America’s Top Colleges in 2018 on Tuesday.

Cal Poly received a $130,000 grant from the California State University system that the school says will be used to help students dealing with homelessness and food insecurity.

The grant, a portion of $2.5 million distributed across CSU's 23 campuses to support student success and the CSU Basic Needs Initiative, will go to develop, enhance and integrate basic needs resources into the fabric of the campus' culture.

Cal Poly spokesman Matt Lazier said as part of the $130,000, the university received a $50,000 Innovation Award (one of 12 throughout the system) to create model programs that can be shared with other CSU campuses. Cal Poly's innovation initiatives include developing technology to connect students with resources and creating a community kitchen and garden, Lazier said Thursday.

"The grant money announced today will allow for significant expansion to Cal Poly’s already growing programming and resources aimed at students facing a shortage of basic needs," Lazier said, "and augments generous donations from Cal Poly Foundation Board members and others over recent years, given expressly to create, maintain and improve on these campus efforts."

The Cal Poly Food Pantry provides fresh and canned food for students who need help meeting basic needs. Since it opened in 2014, usage of the pantry has risen 600 percent.

The funding will be used in several specific ways at Cal Poly, including:

$20,000 for facility improvements to the university’s food pantry

$6,500 for supplies and marketing materials for the food pantry

$6,500 for development of a satellite food pantry (location TBD)

$3,000 for marketing of the university’s meal-sharing program

$3,000 for marketing of the university’s CalFresh programming

$5,000 for development of Basic Needs Emergency Kids for students in need

$25,000 for education/training programs and website development for the university’s basic needs programming

A comprehensive CSU-wide study released Feb. 7 showed that 41.6 percent of students are food insecure, and 10.9 percent have experienced homelessness one or more times in the 12 months prior to when the survey was conducted.

At Cal Poly alone, the survey found, hundreds of students don’t have a stable living situation or didn’t have enough money to consistently feed themselves.

Of the Cal Poly students surveyed, 590 (26.9 percent) reported food insecurity, and 270 (12.3 percent) reported being homeless.

The grants were made possible by the passage of Senate Bill 85, signed into law in June 2017, which allocated $7.5 million in support of hunger-free college campuses, providing the CSU, University of California and California Community College systems each a one-time $2.5 million allocation to "expand the fight against student hunger."

"When students’ basic needs are not addressed it can have an impact on their holistic well-being and academic growth," Denise Bevly, the CSU’s director of student wellness and Basic Needs Initiative, said in a news release. "This additional funding will enable our campuses to better support students by expanding services such as meal-sharing programs, CalFresh enrollment and emergency grants."

Lazier said Cal Poly also plans to expand its Basic Needs Task Force to include additional stakeholders; participating in professional development opportunities hosted by the Chancellor's Office and focused on basic needs; participating in hunger/homeless awareness events in fall 2018; and hosting CalFresh Awareness Day on Feb. 27, 2019.

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