Publications & Research

Access to Proper Nutrition Equals College Success: Making CalFresh Work For Students

Female student in winter clothes standing in front of fresh produce stall

Often overlooked, issues of chronic hunger and food insecurity have become a persistent challenge across colleges and universities nationally. In California, where one in three postsecondary students experiences food insecurity, the challenge is even more acute because of the high cost of living.  

The CalFresh program offers nutritional assistance, but only a small fraction of eligible postsecondary students receive benefits. Recognizing that expanding access to CalFresh benefits could improve outcomes for hundreds of thousands of low-income college students, the California Student Aid Commission (CSAC) convened a working group to focus on the issue; including a variety of perspectives—practitioners, researchers, higher education leaders, students, and legislative and agency staff—and taking a user- and student-centered design approachthe group developed a set of recommendations designed to create a better system with less burden on students 

The resulting report from CSAC is Access to Proper Nutrition Equals College Success: Making CalFresh Work for Students. The report examines postsecondary students’ needs in relation to food insecurity and challenges with accessing CalFresh benefits, and recommends short-term and long-term systemic policies to streamline and create efficient access to CalFresh benefits.  

Said Ria Sengupta Bhatt, director of public policy at College Futures Foundation, “this report is timely given the increased challenges college students have faced during the pandemic around basic needsincluding regular access to nutritious meals. Hunger shouldn’t derail students’ dreams. The proposals in CSAC’s report reinforce the importance of coordinated action at the local, state, and federal levels if we are to address food insecurity issues for California’s college students at scale.” 

This report was prepared by WestEd on behalf of the California Student Aid Commission. 

Read the CSAC Report

Topics: Affordability