Governor Newsom Signs Law Targeting Growing Hunger Crisis at California Colleges and Universities

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By Vanguard Staff

Sacramento, CA – This week, Governor Newsom signed into law AB 396, a bill that will help feed thousands of California students currently struggling with hunger and food insecurity.

The measure authored by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel will require public colleges and universities to seek certification from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) so that students enrolled in qualifying employment and training programs will now be able to access federally-funded CalFresh food benefits.

“It’s shameful that so many young people in California go to bed hungry at night,” said Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel. “Particularly with the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating our student hunger crisis, it’s imperative that we leverage all available resources. AB 396 will allow us to take advantage of already existing federal dollars to help feed our most vulnerable students and make sure they get the nutrition assistance they so desperately need. I applaud Governor Newsom for his leadership in helping our most vulnerable Californians and thank him for signing this important bill.”

AB 396 will expand access to CalFresh food benefits provided through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Currently, college students are ineligible for these benefits unless they are working at least 20 hours a week or fall within one of several enumerated exemptions. AB 396 focuses on the Employment and Training (E&T) services program exemption, which allows students who participate in qualifying programs such as internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training to claim CalFresh benefits. According to data from CDSS, a little over 250 E&T programs are currently approved under this exemption, despite the fact that data from the U.S. Department of Education suggests that there are over 9,000 potentially qualifying programs in the California Community College system alone.

“Assembly Bill 396 will streamline the process by which the California State University (CSU) certifies its academic programs to participate in the ‘employment and training’ student eligibility pathway for CalFresh benefits,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “In doing so, it will help ensure that Cal State students are connected to much-needed CalFresh benefits—removing a barrier to success so that they can achieve their personal, academic, and career goals, as well as help California meet its future workforce needs.”

Research has exposed a shockingly high prevalence of hunger and food insecurity on California’s college campuses. Nearly one in three California college students face food and housing insecurity according to a survey by the California Student Aid Commission. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenge, with a recent report showing that almost 3 out of every 5 students are experiencing basic needs insecurity during the pandemic.

“Students should have the freedom to be a student and focus on their education without the added stress of meeting their basic needs, yet the unfortunate reality is that food insecurity continues to impact too many college students in California,” said ​​Yun (Raina) Zhao, UC Student Association Campaigns Chair and UC Berkeley student. “Existing student employment criteria for CalFresh eligibility are difficult to meet, presenting excessive stressors to a student’s already demanding situation. AB 396 is a necessary step to make it easier for students to meet CalFresh requirements and receive the resources they need, not only to be academically successful but also to have an adequate standard of living.”

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54 thoughts on “Governor Newsom Signs Law Targeting Growing Hunger Crisis at California Colleges and Universities”

  1. Ron Oertel

    AB 396 focuses on the Employment and Training (E&T) services program exemption, which allows students who participate in qualifying programs such as internships, apprenticeships, and on-the-job training to claim CalFresh benefits. According to data from CDSS, a little over 250 E&T programs are currently approved under this exemption, despite the fact that data from the U.S. Department of Education suggests that there are over 9,000 potentially qualifying programs in the California Community College system alone.

    Does the Vanguard’s internship program qualify for this?  If so, it is yet another subsidy for the Vanguard itself (in addition to its connections to universities and their programs – such as academic credit for participation).

    Not to mention its tax-exempt status.

  2. Alan Miller

    [edited]  I’ll try again:  my point is we don’t see starving students.  Yes, food costs money and some people struggle with money.  CalFresh has become a racket, right from its re-branding so as not to shame, to the normalizing in our society that schools should be free restaurants year-round for students, to the normalization of ever-growing government programs as ultimately more efficient for food distribution.  Of course what is actually happening is increased costs/inflation due to massive increases in government spending.  Food, Gas, Rent.  . . . and that hurts who the most?  That’s right class:  low income people.  And the solution:  more government spending.  😐

    Soon people will actually understand that CalFresh is food stamps, and they’ll have to change the name again, so as not to shame again.

        1. Hiram Jackson

          I wouldn’t say “starving.”  From what I see it is being able to afford a healthy diet.  Twinkies are cheaper than most fresh fruit, and they have more calories.  But it’s a terrible thing to eat as a staple.  It will make you diabetic sooner, and then you’ll have health bills to deal with.

        2. Alan Miller

          I’m good with helping out, and good with healthy.  For example there are — what are they called? – “Free Fridges” or some cute name on campus where people stock extra produce from student farm or place extra veggies and fruits.  However, we can’t change people’s choices if they choose cråp.  At least food choice are much better at dorms than when I went to UCD.  Anyone else here remember ‘sloppy joe Fridays’ at Tercero?  Ug.

          The problem is money, not healthy food.  If I had gone to Stanford instead of UCD, I would have been starving, and my parents would have lost their house.  Now if you want to change the structure of higher education, that’s another discussion, one Biden seems intent on pushing through in one of the so-called ‘infrastructure’ packages.  Expansion of a food stamp program under a cutesy name isn’t necessarily anything but an expansion of bureaucracy under a ‘good’ cause flag as a further subsidy to UC.

        3. Alan Miller

          I do know plenty who live on Ramen.

          Nothing new under the sun.  Many I knew in the 80’s who bought Top Ramen by the case was to balance out their alcohol and pot budget.

        4. Ron Oertel

          Many I knew in the 80’s who bought Top Ramen by the case was to balance out their alcohol and pot budget.

          I know that Ramen is still a good deal, but is pot (as a result of it being legalized)?  Or, has the opposite occurred?

          Of course, there’s still probably “two” markets for it.  By the way, has no one objected to the term “black market” so far?

          1. David Greenwald

            Pot is really cheap, I’ve heard. It’s also way more potent than in the day, I’ve also heard.

        5. Ron Oertel

          I walked into a legal outlet several months ago in Davis, and did not find the prices particularly cheap.

          I don’t know if there were additional taxes beyond that.

          1. David Greenwald

            All depends on what your using it for I suppose. If you are smoking three bowls, three times a day, it becomes pretty pricey habit. If you are a low dose user, a few times a week at small quantities, it’s very cheap.

        6. Ron Oertel

          I guess it also depends upon how much discretionary income one has.

          Maybe they need a “Pot Bank” on campuses. Along with a Yolo Pot Bank.

          Hell, they already have a wine institute on campus (but I assume without direct distribution capabilities, to students).

        7. Hiram Jackson

          D.G.: “I don’t know anyone who eats twinkies.  I do know plenty who live on Ramen.”

          My point in bringing up the twinkie example is that it is a cheap processed food, as opposed to fruits and vegetables that are fresh, or closer to that state, which are usually much more expensive.  Ramen noodles maybe a little healthier (or maybe less harmful) than twinkies, but I don’t think nutritionists would say ramen noodles alone are an appropriate healthy diet, especially if that’s what it is for months & years.

        8. Ron Oertel

          I hope we don’t hear anything in the future about a “Ramen defense”.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twinkie_defense#:~:text=%22Twinkie%20defense%22%20is%20a%20derisive,Milk%20and%20Mayor%20George%20Moscone.

          Seems to me that folks eat Ramen out of convenience, as well as its low-cost.  Don’t folks sometimes add vegetables to those, as well?

          Especially young people, who generally don’t have families and regular/traditional meals?

          Should we also hope that they don’t give out Ramen at food banks and pantries? : )

  3. Keith Y Echols

    I just don’t understand why some feel the need to use public funds to subsidize college students.   I get feeding K-12 students.  But adults CHOOSE to go to college.  When I went to college I had to figure out if I could afford to go to school.  Some schools I could afford and others I couldn’t.  If you couldn’t afford college you got a job, scraped by and spent money on food and not tuition.

    1. Hiram Jackson

      The economics of college and life in general have changed over the past couple of decades.  All four campuses of the Los Rios Community College District, as well as Woodland Community College and Solano Community College, have food pantries for students.

      If education is supposed to lift people out of poverty, there is a certain threshold of poverty for students to overcome just participate in that education.

      1. Keith Y Echols

        If education is supposed to lift people out of poverty, 

        Oh lord.  NO…Education is not supposed to lift people out of poverty.  It’s not a freakin magical enchantment.  COLLEGE IS NOT FOR EVERYONE.  Nor should it be.  It’s a stupid ultra liberal belief that we just need to educate everybody out of poverty.  No.  The U.S.  needs better paying jobs….it used to be that people could relatively easily get unskilled labor jobs and make comfortable livings.

        So no, we do not need to subsidize the next English major’s quest to become the next Starbucks barista.  I mean if that’s what they want to do on their own…that’s great…more power to them.

        1. Hiram Jackson

          Education is not supposed to lift people out of poverty.  

          It’s a necessity if you want to work in Silicon Valley.

          …it used to be that people could relatively easily get unskilled labor jobs and make comfortable livings.

          It has been a long time since the federal minimum wage was raised.  In my own life, going to college was one option (which I took) on graduating from high school.  Another viable option was to go down the road to work in the General Motors factory; they paid really well for the time and offered pretty good benefits.  That factory shut down 7-8 years later so that the company could move those jobs out of the country where labor was cheaper. In hindsight I’m really glad that I went to college.

          1. David Greenwald

            This notion that education is not supposed to lift people out of poverty. Education as I posted already escalates expected income. It doesn’t do it automatically obviously and it’s not a guarantee. But look at the poverty rate for those with no high school, those with a high school degree and those with a college degree, it’s pretty stark.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          It’s a necessity if you want to work in Silicon Valley.

          Hmm…is this Silicon Valley?  No.  Is the majority of the rest of the United States Silicon Valley?  No.  Should Silicon Valley maybe do something about their affordability problem for everyone except the highest paid (tech or otherwise) employees?  Yes.  Or you know…we could keep cramming more kids into higher education and simply expect them to magically have better lives.

          It has been a long time since the federal minimum wage was raised.  In my own life, going to college was one option (which I took) on graduating from high school. 

          Raising the Federal minimum wage is not the answer.  You’re just going to make employee people in the US more expensive and drive jobs out of the US.

          Another viable option was to go down the road to work in the General Motors factory; they paid really well for the time and offered pretty good benefits.  That factory shut down 7-8 years later so that the company could move those jobs out of the country where labor was cheaper. In hindsight I’m really glad that I went to college.

          Yeah…uh…good for you….kind of sucks for those that didn’t go to college.  So…ya know maybe those jobs need to be brought back, developed and protected.

        3. Ron Glick

          The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to David Card for showing that increases in the minimum wage does not necessarily lead to fewer jobs.

          Of course the Nobel’s have been diminished ever since they gave the Peace Prize to Henry Kissinger.

        4. Hiram Jackson

          Keith Y Echols: “Raising the Federal minimum wage is not the answer.  You’re just going to make employee people in the US more expensive and drive jobs out of the US.”

          If not raising the federal minimum wage, what do you suggest doing to create your ideal world?

           

           

        5. Keith Y Echols

          The Nobel Prize in Economics was awarded today to David Card for showing that increases in the minimum wage does not necessarily lead to fewer jobs.

          Yeah, Card & Krueger’s research us flawed (as applied to the greater economy) but it’s a feel good result.  At best it’s a valid limited snap shot in an isolated environment.   But hey if you want to extrapolate the hiring of Burger King employees in Jersey to the over all greater economy….yeah…that sounds like a good idea.

  4. Ron Oertel

    There are, no doubt – college students in need.  Such as those whose families are in poverty and (for whatever reason) cannot stay at home to attend at least a portion of their college education. Probably a minority of the student population.

    Not sure that looking at food pantries is an accurate measure of this, regardless.

    UC Davis’ Food Pantry apparently has no qualification requirements.

    The Pantry is open to all UC Davis students.

    https://thepantry.ucdavis.edu/

    It should also be noted that the cost of education is already heavily-subsidized by government (for residents).  And it’s usually totally free, for those who qualify for financial aid.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      But the truly sad part is all of the students who take out massive loans (despite the subsidies), and then find out that their degrees aren’t exactly the meal ticket they expected them to be.

      In my opinion, this is (almost) criminal in nature. It’s part of the “full-employment act” for those whose livelihood depends upon it (e.g., many of those in university towns). And to heck with the young victims of it.

      That’s when they call-up Uncle Biden for help.  But his hand are (for the most part) already committed to other trillion-dollar bills.

      Want a job without a massive debt?  Become a handyman and/or contractor.  You’ll be turning-away work. You can even start a business (probably a lot more easily than many white-collar fields).

      But yeah, you might *gasp* get your hands dirty. But you might not be looking down on them anymore, when you realize that it actually takes some skill – while raking in those dollars (with no student loan debt).

      1. David Greenwald

         But the truly sad part is all of the students who take out massive loans (despite the subsidies), and then find out that their degrees aren’t exactly the meal ticket they expected them to be.”

        This is a statement contradicted directly by data.  The earning gap between those with a college education and those without is enormous and growing.

        1. Ron Oertel

          Truth be told, I don’t fully trust the source of this type of claim. There are degrees that simply do not have any real value, in regard to increased employment opportunities. And yet, folks go into debt to get those degrees.

          There are vast differences between “types” of degrees, and “types” of alternative fields.

          In any case we do know that those who go into professional blue-collar fields usually don’t start out with tens of thousands of dollars in student debt. I suspect that they also have ample employment opportunities, in general.

          My primary comment is that the existence of food pantries on campus is not even close to being a measure of “food insecurity”.  Again, there are no apparent qualification requirements.

          And yet, you and another commenter used them as examples of “food insecurity”.

          1. David Greenwald

            Bottom line is that the median income for a college graduate is about $65K versus $39 for a HS degree.

        2. Keith Y Echols

          You’re looking at the data all wrong.  The answer is to find ways to make the lesser educated paid better.  Not continue to cram more people into the higher education system and continue to devalue that education.

  5. Ron Oertel

    The problem being that when everyone and their grandma has a degree, having a degree does not differentiate oneself.  Having a degree used to mean something.

    Reminds me of what Charles Manson once said, regarding how being crazy “used to mean something” (words to that effect). In other words, the label had lost its uniqueness, to which he seemed to be expressing disappointment.

    It would be interesting to compare the debt and income levels of professional blue-collar workers, vs. those with varying college degrees.

    Those with “neither” are counted as having no degree, thereby lumping them into the same category as professional blue-collar workers and business owners.  Which would bring down the average income level in that category.

    To put it bluntly (and clarify), true “economic losers” (those who do not attend college OR pursue a professional blue-collar occupation) are lumped solely into the blue-collar (no college) category. Therefore, that single category would include all of those who could not handle “either” option.

     

    [Moderator: this is your fifth and final comment on this thread for today]

    1. David Greenwald

      “Everyone and their grandma has a degree…”

      False.  Only 42 percent of those 25 and over have a college degree.  Can you please research basic facts before posting.

      1. Ron Oertel

        I didn’t realize that I assigned a percentage to grandmas.

        I suspect that a lot fewer grandmas (or even grandpas) have degrees, compared to current generations.  And yet, millenials (for example) are doing worse than previous generations, according to the reports I’ve seen.  And a lot of that is due to student debt. (Apparently, with a corresponding decline in value for degrees.)

        I, for example, would be considered a “first generation student”, in regard to being part of the first generation in my family to complete college (of those of us who did). I realize this doesn’t “fit the bill” in regard to the parallel agenda regarding skin color, but it is a fact.

        In any case, I don’t believe it is useful to compare “college”, vs. “only high school” in general (as your source listed – which “coincidentally” – is from a college).

        A better comparison would be to compare someone with a professional trade, vs. those who pursue various options in college. And that would also include an examination of debt for each grouping.

        But for sure, you’re not going to get an accurate read on how many college students are “food insecure” by examining attendance at campus food banks (which are open to all students).

         

        1. Hiram Jackson

          Ron Oertel: “In any case, I don’t believe it is useful to compare “college”, vs. “only high school” in general (as your source listed – which “coincidentally” – is from a college).

          “A better comparison would be to compare someone with a professional trade, vs. those who pursue various options in college. And that would also include an examination of debt for each grouping.”

          What seems clear is that it is tough for most folks to have long term independent economic security without some form of post high school educational experience.  I would put trade school, job skill certification programs, military enlistment, and community college associate degree programs in the category of post high school educational experience, along with conventional bachelor degrees.  It seems likely that many will return to education of some form later in life to re-tool for changing circumstances.  I acknowledge that there are exceptions to needing post high school education for economic security, but they are rare.

          California community colleges encompass trade school programs, job skill certifications, and associate degrees.   As I noted above, even area community colleges have food pantries.  The military mostly takes care of food and housing.  It is challenging for students to support themselves alone and participate in these programs.

        2. Ron Oertel

          The difference with community colleges is that almost no one leaves home (their parents’ home, generally) to attend them.

          As such, no rent (unless their parents charge them).

          Quite often, the same is true regarding state colleges.

          And again, I suspect no “qualification” requirements for food pantries at community colleges, either.  Though no doubt, some families are struggling whether or not their kids attend community college. If anything, I suspect the latter part is more true for those attending community college, vs. UCD.

          I’m not opposed to food pantries, nor do I necessarily think they should be income-restricted.  But, I would not measure participation at them for the purpose of determining the degree of “food insecurity”, since there apparently are no income limitations.

          I dunno, but I hope no one is voluntarily going into debt to attend all 4 years at a university such as UCD, when they can at least attend community college for the first 2 years. But, I suspect that some do, regardless – for the “college experience” (due to their own beliefs, or those of their parents). For this latter group, I don’t have a lot of empathy when they rack-up debt (or claim that they’re “food insecure”).

          1. Don Shor

            The difference with community colleges is that almost no one leaves home (their parents’ home, generally) to attend them.

            Every young adult I’ve known who was attending community college was not living at home. I’ve known quite a few.

            As such, no rent (unless their parents charge them).

            They all worked and attended community college and mostly paid their own rent. Many of the young adults around town are doing that.

            What’s your experience on this topic and the source of your assumptions?

          2. David Greenwald

            “The difference with community colleges is that almost no one leaves home (their parents’ home, generally) to attend them.”

            I don’t know percentages, I know when I lived in SLO, a healthy percentage of those who attended Cuesta College were from LA and they even had Cuesta Student Apartments in SLO. Granted that was nearly 30 years ago.

        3. Hiram Jackson

          Ron Oertel: “The difference with community colleges is that almost no one leaves home (their parents’ home, generally) to attend them.
          “As such, no rent (unless their parents charge them).”

          While many students may live at home and receive some support from their parents, I think you assume that this is a widespread norm.  There are a lot of valid reasons why students either live on their own, and not with parents, or may end up being significant household income-earners if they do live with their parents. Either way, the burden is on the students.

  6. Ron Oertel

     

    Every young adult I’ve known who was attending community college was not living at home. I’ve known quite a few.

    This would be an entirely different situation than “going away” to college.

    It seems that you’re referring to those who would be living on their own, regardless of whether or not they’re attending college.

    As far as every young adult you’ve known, this is not a representative sample of those who are living at home (with their parents), vs. on their own.  I do know (for a fact) that many community college students do live with their parents.  I’ve known quite a few who did so, some (probably most) of whom then also stayed at home after transferring to a state college.

    I believe this is less-common when it comes to a UC. But it also occurs, there.

    I would think that there’s differences regarding this when it comes to different locales throughout the state, as well. And, differences in various age groups, evening vs. daytime courses, etc.

  7. Ron Glick

    We produce so much food in this country, this state, this county, there is no reason there should be any hunger at all in California. We export food. We help feed the world. Our productive capacity for food is so great that the problem of hunger in the world is one of distribution not production.

    We subsidize food production in many ways. Our farm state senators demand huge subsidies through ethanol mandates. NAFTA allowed us to dump excess corn production in Mexico helping to drive immigration to El Norte. Our cotton subsidies help to keep people in poverty in places like Mali. Our sugar subsidies have been used to hurt Cuba’s economy for decades. Food Stamps have always benefitted farmers and merchants more than the poor they help feed.

    The State of California has a massive budget surplus. If the elected leaders choose to make life a little easier for some poor college kids I think its fine.

    Of course a bunch of old Vanguard whiners who’s bellies are full and who’s houses are warm can complain. But for those who can be both food and housing insecure more help should be celebrated. And yes, the two are linked. With rents so high, because of lack of needed additional supply exacerbated over the last 30 years by opposition to growth, California has the highest percent of people living in poverty in the nation.

    So you can complain about how you walked to school and back home uphill in the snow in both directions 50 years ago, or you can complain about too much help going to the lowest on the pecking order out of some laissez faire economic idealism or whatever, but I support feeding people.

    Finally, I challenge you to go see one of the Yolo Food Banks big distribution events to see the reality of how many people are struggling in the county where you live.  Remember capitalism is the greatest economic system on earth for those who have capital, for the rest they get by better with a little help from their friends.

     

    1. Ron Oertel

      The executive director of the Yolo Food Bank is well-compensated for his efforts.  This is public information, available on its own website. So if you want to talk about “full bellies”, start with him.

      They also have a wealthy developer on their board (Ramos).

      1. Ron Glick

        The executive director has done a fabulous job during difficult times he deserves every penny he earns.

        Developers who give back to the communities they live in should be celebrated.

        1. Ron Oertel

          My comment is in response to this, though it doesn’t necessarily single anyone out in particular:

          Of course a bunch of old Vanguard whiners who’s bellies are full and who’s houses are warm can complain.

          It could be that these “whiners” have done a fabulous job (in their respective careers – which also serve society) during difficult times and deserve every penny they’ve earned.

          Developers who give back to the communities they live in should be celebrated.

          How might this close relationship influence the views and support of development proposals by those associated with Yolo Food Bank or their political allies? Might it cause them, for example, to ignore the impact of a proposed development in regard to local contributions to greenhouse gasses?

          In short, do you want your friends (such as those on your own board) to succeed, or fail? Does this then become more important than other values?

        2. Ron Glick

          Its all a giant cabal. Those evil developers getting rich providing housing and business infrastructure and the interlocking directorships they sit on to feed the hungry. Of course, since the only motivation they could possibly have is their own bottom line, they go around giving back to the neediest in the community to curry favor for the next destructive project supplanting sacred tomatoes with homes for people.

           

        3. Ron Oertel

          I dunno, it doesn’t sound like this cabal is as evil as those homeowners who want to block others (especially any people of color) from enjoying the vast wealth and prime location in all the world that is Davis – which they themselves have unjustly benefited from. You know, the whiners with warm homes and full bellies, who falsely claim that they had to walk uphill (both ways) to school in the snow, when they were young.

          Hopefully, also driving up the price of their own homes ever-higher (even if they’re not likely to sell), since that will (of course) keep the riff-raff out.  Other than those forced onto the street and into food pantries as a result of their selfishness.  Maybe they can then also employ the racist police to rid themselves of those folks.

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