School of Social Work

No Student Left Hungry

food pantry
On-campus food pantry volunteers answer student questions and provide free food.

Distressingly, several recent national surveys have shown that far too many college students are confronted with food and/or housing insecurity. The California State University (CSU) system, one of the largest systems in the nation, recently studied these problems. Research findings indicate that 20% of the 460,000 CSU system students at any one time lack consistent access to food and about 10% are homeless. Just like their younger counterparts, college students who are stressed about food or housing do not learn as well as their peers.

MSW students recently completed a similar needs assessment at SDSU and found results that were very similar to the state-wide study. In 2015, SDSU created the Economic Crisis Response Team (ECRT). The team is a group of staff, administrators, students, and faculty from across campus working together to ensure students experiencing food or housing insecurity, or other immediate, unforeseen financial crises are connected with short-term and long- term aid quickly and without stigmatization. The team was created to coordinate already existing resources on campus, and collect information on off-campus agencies that provide different types of support to college students in need.

group photo with food
The Aztecs Rock Hunger leaders

Included in the members of the ECRT is an MSW in- tern who will provide on-going case management and/or follow-up as needed. Many social work students are also involved in the on-campus mobile food pantry. This booth is part of the Thursday Farmer’s Market on the SDSU campus. Bags of food are given to any student who expresses a need, no questions asked. The booth also provides applications for food assistance programs such as CalFresh, as well as referral information for the ECRT. Further demonstrating the college’s commitment to hunger relief, CHHS was once again the most successful group in the 2016 “Students Rock Hunger” drive, collecting 14,023 pounds of food to be given to the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. This was almost triple the amount raised last year and marks the fifth year in a row that CHHS collected the most food.

Student need appears to be even greater at our community colleges, where a recent study found that 50% of the survey respondents faced marginal food insecurity over the past 30 days and these same students also tended to face housing insecurity. Historically the School of Social Work has placed MSW interns at San Diego City College’s Mental Health Counseling Center. Recently the school took the lead to address student housing and food security issues with a unique collaborative idea. The director brought together Mesa College and three non-profit agencies — San Diego Youth Services, Social Advocates for Youth San Diego and Price Philanthropies. They formed an innovative university/community college/non-profit partnership to serve college students with food and housing security concerns.

mesa students
Mesa College interns Marlee Compton and Shelly Staal, with superviser Sade Burell

This fall two social work students, Marlee Compton and Shelly Staal, were placed at San Diego Mesa College, working with task supervisor Sade Burrell, MSW (and SDSU graduate). The interns will serve as “resource brokers” to provide advocacy, needs assessments, referrals and linkages to both internal and external resources. Silvia Barragan, who is serving as Field Faculty, stated “The amount of collaboration and good will exhibited by all of the agencies involved is inspiring. I have no doubt that Marlee and Shelly will learn a great deal and that the students of San Diego Mesa College will benefit from the collaboration.” Dr. Donna Daly, a field instructor (and an alumna) says, “We are keenly aware of the challenges facing students with housing and food insecurity and look forward to expanding efforts. Food and housing insecurity, clear social justice issues, are at the very heart of social work practice. It’s time to work together to ameliorate these concerns so that students can focus on education. The School of Social Work is excited to partner with Mesa and these agencies to begin to address a need faced by too many students.”