Resources for food available to students amid a pandemic

Updated: Oct 2, 2020

How Valley College is continuing to support those that are food insecure.

By Cassandra Nava, News Editor

San Fernando Salvation Army Corps volunteer Selene Cervantes prepares canned food emergency packages on Sept. 24, 2020 on 14917 Victory Blvd. in Van Nuys, CA. (Photo by Juan Grajeda/The Valley Star)

Valley College is providing fresh food and produce for students through local pantries, food cards and benefit programs.

Addressing students’ needs has always been a top priority for Valley, but efforts have ramped up due to the coronavirus pandemic. With no physical access to the pantry on campus, food insecure students are urged to visit local food banks in their area. There is also a food distribution program from the Helping Hands Food Pantry, which offers a monthly gift card for groceries. The program CalFresh can assist students as well, because it provides benefits to buy nutritious foods.

According to the California Community Colleges #RealCollege survey from March 2019, “50 percent of the California community college students who responded to the survey experienced food insecurity, with 20 percent assessed at the low level and 30 percent assessed at the very lowest level of food security. Over half of survey respondents worried about running out of food or could not afford to eat balanced meals.”

Valley's website displays a list of local pantries that are within about 10 miles of the school and for those looking for a pantry closer to them, the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank Locator allows users to type in their address and adjust the search radius to look closer to their exact location. Drive-thru food banks are also offered by the Los Angeles Unified School District, called Grab & Go Food Centers, where all community members are welcomed.

The LAVC Helping Hands Food pantry is offering students monthly gift cards of at least $25 for groceries. In September, 60 students needed assistance according to Nino Shtromberg, Valley’s Assessment Center coordinator. Students can access these gift cards through the application found on Valley’s website.

“We don’t have strict requirements [for the gift cards], but students have to be taking a certain amount of units and need to have positive progress in their studies,” said Shtromberg.

Another option is CalFresh, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It provides monthly benefits that can be accessed through an Electronic Benefits Transfer card. CalFresh can provide up to $194 a month per household member for food, according to this list of benefits for students. Assistance for the application can be provided through the student portal, where students will be redirected to Cranium Cafe so they can speak to a counselor.

“Over 75 percent of students at community colleges qualify for CalFresh,” said Elahe Rabani, Valley’s director of CalWorks and the Helping Hands Project. “These students don't have to be CalWorks students, EOPS or anything. As long as they qualify for it they can get it.”

Hotlines are also available for students or community members. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Hunger Hotline connects callers directly to emergency food providers in their community, government assistance programs, and various social services, according to their website. The hotline numbers are 1-866-348-6479 or 1-877-842-6273 (Spanish).

More information on the Helping Hands Food Pantry and CalFresh is available on Valley’s website, and resources can be found on the Student Update page. Those who need help with the CalFresh application can email the CalWorks office, or can call at (818) 947-2976.

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