By Elizabeth Aquino and Elizabeth Hernandez

New services focused on resolving student food insecurity and financial instability are being implemented thanks to the Broncos Care Basic Needs Program, as part of the California State University Basic Needs Initiative. 

In a study published by the CSU in January 2018, 41.6% of CSU students surveyed reported having food insecurities and 10.9% experienced times of homelessness. 

Leticia Gutierrez-Lopez, associate vice president of Student Health & Wellbeing, said the Broncos Care Basic Needs Program is taking a more holistic approach in caring for students. 

“Being a student isn’t just about the classrooms and the books,” Gutierrez-Lopez said. “We want to approach the financial [side], the physical well-being, the mental health and the basic needs piece for sure, and just help students become successful, even after they leave.”

The Broncos Care Basic Needs Program is offering $500 grants to help students facing unexpected emergencies. 

“We’ve had students come in and have these situations where their home burned down, or their car broke down, and now they can’t get to school,” Gutierrez-Lopez explained. “It’s unexpected. We see situations like that and we think, if they had a little financial support, this might help them get out [of these situations].”

Students can apply for a grant on the Broncos Care Basic Needs website by filling out a form explaining their situation and how they plan to use the funds, if given. 

A grant is given after the student meets with Judy Suarez, care service coordinator, and the request is approved by Rita O’Neill, Student Health & Wellness Services director.

To assist students facing food insecurities, a permanent food pantry has been established in the Bronco Student Center by Associated Students Inc. 

The new Poly Pantry offers canned goods, dry foods and toiletries for students who struggle to support themselves financially.

The mobile food bank provided students with free canned goods monthly. (Taylor Boomsma | The Poly Post)

Working low-income students who qualify for CalFresh are given Golden State Advantage electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to pay for groceries at participating stores. Qualifying students can apply in the Student Services Building.

In addressing student homelessness, Gutierrez-Lopez explained there is a pressing need for more housing options. 

Program staff are working on establishing emergency housing in the residence halls and reaching out to local hotels to provide temporary housing for students in need, especially those who have children.

“I fully support it,” said Karli VanGunst, a third-year nutrition student. “I think it’s really cool that the school is reaching out to students beyond everyday classroom support. It’s a good way to help students, especially if they’re [in] need.”

In addition to the Broncos Care Basic Needs Program, the Integrated Care Network has also been established. 

It is comprised of mental health and well-being professionals working together to provide students with therapy, life coaching, counseling and other resources. Students can meet with ADHD and autism specialists, a behavioral intervention team, coordinators and housing services. 

“We’re trying to make it a web of support, so if a student falls, we catch them,” Gutierrez-Lopez said. 

The full list of resources within the Integrated Care Network can be found on the Cal Poly Pomona Student Health and Wellbeing website.

“The mobile food pantry [is] one positive thing that I’ve heard about on this campus,” fourth-year sociology student Teresita Rangel said. “It gives the students a sense of relief on top of dealing with life, school and work.”

Applications and information for services listed can also be found on the Broncos Care Basic Needs Program website at https://www.cpp.edu/~basicneeds. 

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