What a collaboration! @ CSUSM

Collaboration @ CSUSM

What a collaboration! @ CSUSM

Universities and Colleges are places of learning. But it can be difficult to learn when one is faced with a consistent and persistent problem seen at Universities across the US today: hunger.

At California State University San Marcos (CSUSM), it is estimated that one in two (1:2) students have experienced hunger (food insecurity) during the past year. At Cal State campuses across the state, the average is one in four (1:4), demonstrating the poignant need in Southern CA.

Fortunately for students at CSUSM, the Cougar Care Network (CCN) is setting the stage for new and effective ways to address hunger on and off campus in a caring and compassionate manner. CCN is “CSUSM’s early support initiative to improve student success, retention, and persistence”. In fact, the Cougar Care Network as a centralized resource is considered a best practice in the Cal State system. CCN currently serves about 1000 students with the three highest needs being: food, housing, and mental health.

CSUSM is behind a 2-year effort to establish a food pantry on campus to support students who find themselves faced with choices to pay fees or rent or eat. CSUSM student advocacy and student voices via the Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Board of Directors­ were integral in the creation of the on-campus food pantry. Students from the ASI Board of Directors became aware of issues related to food insecurity on campus (based on the CSU and CSUSM surveys) and realized to properly represent the student voice, students’ basic needs first needed to be addressed. 

Over the course of the past few years the ASI Board of Directors members have gone from creating a resolution in support of an on-campus food pantry, to securing the funds for an on-campus space, to now finalizing the plans for the space to be open this Fall 2017. The food pantry will be stocked with dry goods, run by the Associated Students Inc., and available for students to access one day per week. But there is so much more---thanks to collaborative partnerships.

So, what all is happening? Who is collaborating?

CSUSM has been working with Summit Church directly off campus, who provides food distribution on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month. Attendees can access up to 15 pounds of food at each distribution. Summit Church has agreed to modify the hours of food distribution specifically to accommodate student schedules. Summit Church also receives food from Feeding San Diego.

CSUSM is working with the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank in North San Diego County to establish Pop-up Fresh Food Distributions one time per month near the busy food court on campus, complementing the Food Pantry and the Summit Church distributions. This could also be a great place to distribute prepared food rescued from the Food Court, when that can be arranged.

CSUSM will be working with Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) to provide CalFresh outreach on campus to ensure students understand these benefits and eligibility, especially since eligibility changed in February 2017. And HHSA is working to coordinate cooking skills classes and wholesome food educational events for the 2017-2018 housing programming calendar.

CSUSM is also partnering with the San Diego Food System Alliance and the City of San Marcos on a county-wide effort for food waste reduction and recovery of wholesome food. Save The Food San Diego is a county-wide food waste awareness partnership that leverages the national “Save The Food” public service campaign, a partnership with NRDC and the Ad Council.

Most recently, Kitchens for Good has expressed interest in participating with this food recovery effort via their social enterprise, value-added commercial kitchen opening in San Marcos in late 2017.

Food waste is a national issue which affects San Diego County in a distinct manner. Recent California legislation, AB 1826 and SB 1383, requires progressively less food waste to landfill and increased donation of wholesome food from businesses and residents.

Although planning efforts are underway, in San Diego County there are not yet robust systems in place to compost or digest food waste. This creates a unique opportunity to work on source reduction and donation as a priority first step before new infrastructure and systems are realized---which is a preferred strategy for highest and best use.

Save The Food San Diego campaign objectives are to raise awareness and inspire behavior change for food waste reduction and donation of wholesome food to those in need. Efforts include working collaboratively with state and local government agencies to develop and support peer networks and resources for both food waste generators, and food recovery networks.

Resource and network building is included to catalyze and support food waste reduction and donation of wholesome food by sector: Restaurants and Food Service; Universities and Hospitals; K-12 Schools; Grocery and Warehouse; Stadiums and Venues.

Overarching efforts will serve to raise awareness about food recovery and hunger, toward initiating a lasting and robust food recovery network across San Diego County.

Wow. What a collaboration! @ CSUSM. A developing model for other communities. 

Post by Barbara Hamilton, Director of Strategic Initiatives