CalFresh college partnership

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif.

An increasing number of college students are struggling to make ends meet in Butte County. Many of them face food insecurity which can mean two things: not having money to afford enough food or not having access to healthy options.

“Many students struggle to afford nutritious meals while balancing the costs of tuition, textbooks and other expenses,” explained Lamisse Hirtel, Program Manager of Eligibility & Employment at the Butte County Department of Employment and Social Services.

The growing issue underscores the importance of reaching out to the college population to offer assistance programs such as CalFresh and Medi-Cal.

Our department works together with Chico State and Butte College to expand access to food and cash aid benefits. DESS has two staff members who spend one afternoon per month meeting with students on each campus. They help students apply for CalFresh and Medi-Cal while answering questions and providing information on other services offered by DESS.

“You shouldn’t have to worry about food when you’re already worrying about passing classes,” said Daniel Reinhard, who conducts outreach to the college community on a regular basis.

The goal is to lift as many students out of food insecurity as possible and set them up for academic success.

“I feel it’s important to have that in-person presence on campus due to the tight schedules most students have to work around,” adds Reinhard. “When you’re dealing with a lot of people under the age of 20, I think they also tend to respond better when they can speak to someone face to face.”

Chico State was the first CSU campus to reach out to students in an organized manner. Colleges across California are now following their lead by working to expand access to low-income students.