​​The California State University hosted the first systemwide CalFresh Day Feb. 27 to raise awareness for the food assistance program and encourage eligible students to sign up for benefits.

CalFresh​​, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a nutrition assistance program funded by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) that can help students meet their nutritional needs.

Campus outreach advocates hosted events to educate students on criteria they must meet to qualify and answer common questions. Advocates also connected students with other resources, like campus pantries and meal-sharing programs, and advised students on where they can use CalFresh benefits. 

CSU campuses reached out to students in a variety of ways, including in-person and on social media, offering delicious incentives to learn more about the program.

In addition to helping students sign up for benefits, Cal State LA’s mobile kitchen—operated by the campus Food Pantry—served up cooking demonstrations, showing students how to make easy and healthy meals using foods commonly distributed at the pantry. 

Chico State’s outreach efforts were aimed at meeting eligible students where they are rather than inviting students to come to their program office. Outreach advocates hosted an “After Dark” event during the evening in the university library to sign students up for benefits and provide healthy study snacks.

“We’re so proud of the participation of our campuses during the inaugural CSU CalFresh Outreach Day—the first event of its kind in the nation,” says CSU Director of Student Wellness and Basic Needs Initiative Denise Bevly. “CalFresh is a key pillar of the Basic Needs Initiative and the Chancellor’s Office is committed to continuing our partnership to support these efforts.”

Supporting Students’ Basic Needs

The CSU’s Basic Needs Initiative grew out of Graduation Initiative 2025, which aims to improve completion rates and eliminate equity gaps. Basic needs programs are available at each campus to provide resources for students facing food and housing insecurity, helping students reach their educational goals.

All 23 CSU campuses now offer students CalFresh application assistance and more than 360 designated CalFresh outreach advocates systemwide work to educate students on eligibility and help them sign up for benefits. Outreach advocates have helped approximately 3,400 eligible students sign up for CalFresh since August 2018.

The CSU is also working to enable CalFresh recipients to use their benefits to purchase food on campus. Currently six campuses accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)—the method of payment used by SNAP recipients—with additional campuses in development. The campuses that currently accept EBT are: Humboldt, Long Beach, Pomona, San Francisco, San José, and Northridge.

Each CSU campus now has a food pantry or food distribution program, which connects students with healthy food to supplement their diets. Campus pantries have been serving students since the Basic Needs Initiative launch in 2016 and more than 35,000 students were served by pantries during the fall and winter 2018 semesters.

To learn more about CalFresh benefits and find a campus outreach advocate, visit the CSU’s CalFresh page