FLVR Program Returns With New Restrictions
FLVR Program Returns With New Restrictions
In the Spring of 2016, with a budget of $31,600, the Associated Students board began a pilot program titled Free Lunch Voucher (FLVR), that was aimed at providing food assistance to struggling, homeless students at SMC. By handing out up to 50 daily vouchers good for $5 worth of food each to students on a first come, first serve basis, they hoped to combat the issue of hunger among SMC students.
While in its pilot stages, the program — although seen as an achievement by the AS Board of Directors and recognized statewide as a success — hit a few bumps in the road.
FLVR, a program directed towards student assistance based on need, actually had no way of verifying each student’s needs.
The creator of the program, Director of Student Outreach Johnathon Hughes, strictly wanted to forgo the process of requiring financial proof because he wanted to break the social stigma against poverty.
This semester, The FLVR program has fallen into new hands and the new AS board has taken a different approach by implementing some new requirements for the students utilizing it.
Following in the footsteps of other programs like EOPS and Black Collegians, FLVR now requires students to verify financial need through the financial office.
In addition to financial standards, students will also be held to academic standards in order to participate in the program. There is now a 6 unit, 1.5 GPA minimum requirement, along with the promise that each student using the program will improve each semester. The amount of improvement does not matter as long as some improvement is made.
Students using the FLVR program are also required to meet with a counselor three times a semester. The first session has to be done with an AS-chosen counselor and the remaining two sessions are to be done with any counselor they choose. Each time the student will receive 5 vouchers worth $5 each.
Students using the FLVR program are now required to meet with a counselor 3 times a semester, be enrolled in a minimum of 6 units, and hold at least a 1.5 GPA.
If students do not meet these requirements, there is talk of putting them on some kind of probation, but as of now there is nothing set in stone.
When the changes were announced at the Board of Trustees meeting on September 6, SMC Trustee Margaret Quioñes-Perez said, “If I could just express a concern, It took a while for us as a college to get the development of the FLVR program. It’s really in its infancy stage, so I hate to see it make hoops that the student population would have to go through if they are homeless.”
Margaret’s concerns were left unaddressed as there were no other opposers.
New Director of Student Assistance in charge of the program, Jazzmin Sardin, said, “No one was opposed. We all came to an agreement that students need the program, but we want them to improve… A couple of returning students didn’t meet the GPA requirements and I understand where they are coming from, because I was in that situation once myself. So those students have been taken into special consideration.”
After last semester, a lot of students opted out of the program to make room for those who were actually in need.
During the Board of Trustees meeting, AS president Terrance Ware said, “This was really significant for us because a lot of students last semester, we felt like, didn’t have the need. So to see students are saying themselves they may or may not need it is exciting.”
Last semester, the funding for the FLVR program was left on shaky ground.
The future of funding for the program was undecided, but there was talk of funds coming from a proposed payroll deduction so that any staff members who wish to support FLVR could donate as private individuals. According to Sardin, she has not been in contact with the Interim Dean of Institutional Advancement, Lizzie Moore, who originally offered to carry out that plan.
This semester the FLVR program will be funded through AS much like the pilot program was, but Sardin hopes to find funding elsewhere eventually. “We’ve talked about handing it [FLVR] off to someone else because AS doesn’t have the manpower to continue to fund it,” she said.
AS started off the program at the beginning of the Fall semester with a $20,000 budget.
At $5 a voucher, that is a total of 4,000 meals for the semester. AS is planning on proposing another $30,000 to continue funds through the end of the semester.
As of now, a total of 98 students are enrolled in the FLVR program. That number is quite a bit lower from last semester’s total enrollment of 232 students. That is possibly due to the fact that it’s so early on in the semester, but could also be due to the new restrictions.