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Davis, California

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Cuts to the conveyor belt


What proposed cuts to nutrition assistance program mean for students

The Trump administration recently announced its proposal to implement cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, known as the CalFresh program in California. This proposal raises many important questions and concerns, especially for UC Davis students who rely on CalFresh for their daily nutritional needs.

SNAP is a federally funded program that assists low-income individuals in purchasing food items. Eligible recipients are given an Electronic Benefit Transfer card, loaded monthly with a cash value depending on each recipient’s income level, which can be spent on groceries and produce. Trump’s proposal would attempt to cut costs by replacing a portion of the money, which would have originally been given to SNAP beneficiaries to use at their discretion, with a federally-chosen produce package.

I think this policy will have a direct impact on the UC Davis students that rely on CalFresh to help them receive money each month,” said Rosemary Medina, a fourth-year gender, sexuality and women’s studies major and intern at The Pantry. “CalFresh recipients only get up to $192 a month as a supplement to their estimated monthly food bills, [but] most students rely solely on this money and not as a supplement to other food funds.”

Nadaa Moharram, a first-year chemical engineering major and intern at The Pantry, believes replacing money for groceries with pre-selected grocery packages reduces the amount of choice that individuals have in choosing which foods they can purchase and consume. According to Moharram, the limitations of receiving pre-picked produce packages will have detrimental effects on students with serious dietary restrictions who must follow strict diet plans.

“Everybody’s body functions differently — many students […] read the nutrition facts on the back of food products, and that is very important to people who are focusing on things like protein or carbohydrates,” Moharram said. “If you get a package that has peanut butter but you’re allergic to peanut butter, what are you going to do with that?”

Some students believe that implementing cuts to SNAP will exacerbate the problem of food insecurity that many students already face. Maria Wong, a fifth-year pharmaceutical chemistry major, says that in the case that further cuts to SNAP do get imposed, students will undoubtedly be forced to actively compete with other individuals for federal nutrition assistance. According to Wong, students’ situational statuses put them at a disadvantage in this realm.

“I think the student population will be the most affected,” Wong said. “Every time there are cuts, students get overlooked because we don’t have dependents and we’re not working full time compared to other people who might also be competing for the same resources. Since we are in a situation that requires us to need more money but only for temporary circumstances, other people who use the same resources are preferred over students. And that happens all the time.”

UC Davis has tried to tackle student food insecurity in the recent years, creating programs that aim to alleviate the problem. The Pantry, a student-run program on campus established in collaboration with ASUCD, strives to improve food accessibility among students by providing them with up to three meals per day at no cost. Moharram feels fortunate to be involved with a program whose mission statement is to provide the student community with adequate nutrition in order to fuel their minds and bodies.

“I didn’t realize how big of an issue food insecurity was until I came here, but we get over 200 students every single day,” Moharram said. “We have fresh produce that comes in from the Davis farm, and we have students who get really excited about having things like fresh apples and fresh peppers.”

Moharram said that The Pantry is special because it gives students the opportunity to  give back to their community in an impactful way.

“We have interns and external relations directors [who] meet every single week to plan how to maximize everything we get,” Moharram said. “We’re growing, and it does take some work, but we have students […] who are taking a lot of time to maximize our potential.”

Fruit and Veggie Up! is another resource offered by the school in its efforts to minimize food insecurity without creating barriers to health. According to Elizabeth Von Klan, a third-year nutrition in public health major and nutrition and food access student coordinator for Fruit and Veggie Up!, the program aims to bring healthier and fresher food options to the student population.

“Fruit and Veggie Up! is a program that reduces food waste and increases food and vegetable consumption among students,” Von Klan said. “We’ve really grown over the years. We originally only got produce from the Nugget, and we’re really appreciative of having the Nugget to really get us started, but as the years have gone by we’ve gotten more donors like the Davis Student Farm and the Tandem Farm.”

Von Klan believes that the program, though it is relatively new, has taken huge steps towards combating food insecurity among UC Davis students.

“With Fruit and Veggie Up!, you are able to help the food insecurity issue by giving nutritious food to students while reducing food waste as well,” Von Klan said. “Since we were able to move from the Student Health and Wellness Center to the MU, the numbers for the people who have attended have increased a ton. It really makes a difference in terms of actually getting food accessible to students where it’s really centered on campus. The Aggie Compass is something new coming to campus that will help students apply to CalFresh, in addition to accessing all sorts of other resources, and will hold an expanded Fruit and Veggie Up! program.”

The Pantry and Fruit and Veggie Up! are among the several campus food resources offered to students (more information on all food-related resources offered can be found on the Aggie Food Connection website), but students do see room for improvement. Rosa Martinez, a fourth-year human development major and unit director and manager for The Pantry, stresses that food insecurity is a pressing issue facing many UC Davis students and should not be left on the back burner by the school’s administration board.

Food, housing and basic needs must be a priority to the administration on this campus,” Martinez said. “No student can focus on their academics if they are worried about where their next meal comes from. EBT on our campus has the potential to expand to all stores on campus. […] Food sold on campus is overpriced and attributes to food insecurity. If the UC system wants to combat food insecurity among other issues, then they need to stop giving students an ultimatum between attending a university and their livelihood and wellbeing.”



Written by: Emily Nguyen — features@theaggie.org


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