Cal Fresh: Helping Qualified Students Get Food

Fresh products given away to students at the Farmers Market. Earth Week started with 'Students Feeding Students' Free Farmers Market & Food Demos on Monday, April 16, 2018. At Santa Monica College, Santa Monica California. (Emeline Moquillon/Corsair Photo)

Fresh products given away to students at the Farmers Market. Earth Week started with 'Students Feeding Students' Free Farmers Market & Food Demos on Monday, April 16, 2018. At Santa Monica College, Santa Monica California. (Emeline Moquillon/Corsair Photo)

"We're hungry, I'm hungry, I've been there," says Meka Webb, SMC's food security program consultant. "I had top ramen, I've gone home and had only onions and garlic in my refrigerator."

Santa Monica College is striving to bring awareness to a social service that can benefit its students in need; Cal Fresh is a program that helps students pay for their meals. Programs like Cal Fresh benefit homeless and struggling students, as it can give up to $192 per month for food.

Webb says that they are "collaborating with Los Angeles County Department of Public and Social Services, their Cal Fresh section, to help students apply for the Cal Fresh." Associate Dean Nancy Grass and Webb have been working together to start the Cal Fresh event for the students at Santa Monica College (SMC).

The first event of Cal Fresh took place at the Financial Aid Office on May 10 at the conference room of the Office of Associated Students (2nd floors), and the Counseling Office (inside of the old CalWORKs office; room 101H). The event was held "to make sure that students have extra money to cover their needs when it comes to food," Webb said. "If you [students] don't have access to food, its really hard to learn and pay attention and really have that extra motivation sometimes, because you're choosing literally between lights and food, gas, bus money and food, books and food, and we're just trying to help those efforts."

Starting in the fall, approximately the second week of September will have the upcoming Cal Fresh day. Webb will be inviting their mobile unit that will be on the quad by the library to accept students through walk-ins or appointments.

Once a student has applied and has been approved, then the relationship is with the student and Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) Cal Fresh. A semi-annual and annual report must be submitted to be able to get the Cal Fresh benefits. These reports are necessary so Cal Fresh is aware the student still needs the services.

"From the May 10 event, a student was approved for Cal Fresh benefits, and in August they are in University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), or another fabulous school Cal State Los Angeles (CSULA) the benefits go with the student not the school they are attending," Webb said. "So they can still use it, they would just have a slightly different situation in terms of maybe they have a little bit less money because of all the expenses going to a four-year university and the commute and that would be adjusted on the DPSS site."

Students are able to use their Cal Fresh benefits at mom-and-pop shops that take Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT), because it is on the Golden State Advantage debit card. Students will be able to purchase from Ralphs, Northgate, and even high-end stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.

Every Wednesday during the fall and spring semester, the Corsair Market provides students with free produce while working with Food Forward. Students can feel free to use any of the five pantries that are around campus at the Athletics Department, EOPS, Adelante/Black Collegian Center, Associated Student body, and the Veterans Resource Center.