CalFresh can now be used at one of UC Santa Barbara’s on-campus stores, the Arbor, according to according to Mike Miller, vice chancellor of Enrollment Services.
According to CalFresh Advocate Stephanie Perez, the Arbor is the first store on the UCSB campus at which students can use CalFresh.
CalFresh, also known as the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (S.N.A.P.), gives eligible individuals electronically distributed monetary benefits every month which can be spent at specified local markets or grocery stores, according to the official website of the California Department of Social Services.
The website also states that participants of the program are administered Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Cards which they can use to purchase food items at stores that accept CalFresh.
“At UCSB, we estimate that about 10,000 students are eligible for CalFresh, and if you’re eligible, you may get up to $192 a month,” Melissa Fontaine, the food security coordinator at UCSB, said.
During the 2016-17 academic school year, the UCSB CalFresh Team enrolled roughly 600 students in CalFresh, and 3,000 students in the following year, according to Fontaine.
This year the CalFresh team hopes to enroll 6,000 students in the program by the end of Spring Quarter, Fontaine said.
Fontaine said the new availability of CalFresh at the Arbor happened largely because the UCSB Sustainability Program saw student need for more affordable food options.
UCSB CalFresh Advocate Stephanie Perez, a fourth-year psychology major, echoed this sentiment both as a representative of CalFresh and a participant in the program.
“I actually grew up with food stamps, so I’m very familiar with the CalFresh program,” Perez said. “Without food stamps, I don’t think my family would’ve gotten through, especially since I come from a low-income household.”
Now, as a UCSB student, Perez notes that CalFresh provides a new mobility and convenience to students that may not have been able to afford grabbing a quick snack in between classes at the Arbor.
“Especially during midterms or maybe finals or maybe throughout the day, students sometimes don’t have time to go grocery shopping or don’t have time to go get a snack at home,” she said.
Christian Ortiz Gonzalez, a fifth-year sociology and german studies major, was also heavily involved in bringing CalFresh to the school.
“I decided to work on getting EBT accepted at UCSB because I saw a dire need for it,” Ortiz Gonzalez said in an email to the Nexus.
Ortiz Gonzalez said he worked with several UCSB administrators and staff to help implement the program on campus.
The new availability of CalFresh at the Arbor also follows a recent shift in the on-campus stigma surrounding the CalFresh program, which resulted from effective tabling and campaigning on the part of the CalFresh team, Perez said.
“I think now, to be honest, UCSB has normalized what CalFresh is…I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘Hey, how have do you not have CalFresh,’ like ‘You need to get on CalFresh.’”
Fontaine stated she wanted to wait until the Arbor staff was fully trained on how to properly process CalFresh payments before making a public announcement about CalFresh’s availability.
“It’s very important for the Arbor that their systems and staff are ready to go before students come to start spending their EBT CalFresh cards here at the Arbor because we want to make sure that everyone has a really great experience.”
Now that CalFresh is available at the Arbor, Perez hopes the program will spread to other markets and food stores on campus.
Fontaine said the spread of the program will “benefit both students and stores.”
“Let’s say our school year last year ended with about 3,000 students who were eligible [for CalFresh] and they were getting $120 a month [through the CalFresh program],” she said. “That becomes $360,000 that could be spent, and is likely to be spent, in the local community. And over the course of the year, that’s over four million dollars.”
“That would benefit business like the Arbor, Tenaya Market, the Isla Vista Food Co-op… Their sales will increase because students now have more purchasing power, so that’s tremendous.”
A version of this story appeared on p. 5 of the Nov. 15, 2018, print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Updated [Jan. 2, 2019]: This article was updated to include information about Gonzalez.