SB 641 signed by Governor Newsom expands access to CalFresh benefits to California’s College Students

San Luis Obispo, CA – 14 October, 2022 – The SLO Food Bank and its hunger relief network celebrate the signing of a new State law designed to provide hunger relief to struggling college students. Governor Newsom recently signed SB 641 CalFresh for College Students Act into law, which will continue to remove barriers for college students seeking CalFresh food assistance.

About SB 641 and Hunger in College

Existing federal law exempts many otherwise income eligible college students from participating in the United States Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

However, research suggests that approximately one in four college students experience hunger and college students need easier access to food benefits. SB 641 widened the criteria for students to qualify for CalFresh, making more students eligible for these critical benefits and removing barriers for their participation.

This statewide expansion of hunger relief support is critical and timely. A recent study performed by Cal Poly found that 27% of Cal Poly students struggle with food insecurity. SLO Food Bank’s Neighborhood Food Distribution at Cal Poly saw the largest participation ever at beginning of the most recent quarter. On September 27, 2022, at the SLO Food Bank’s on-campus distribution, 310 students were served, with about 50-60 more students being directed to the onsite Cal Poly pantry and other food resources. Both SLO Food Bank’s distribution and partnered campus pantry have seen significant increases; Cal Poly’s Pantry staff increased from 5 to 22 people from 2021-2022, serving an average of 1,200 students and income-eligible staff per month during the winter of 2021 and spring academic quarters of 2022. The SLO Cuesta College distribution has doubled since August 2022 with students returning for the semester, now serving over 110 households. Diane Limon, a CalWORKs Specialist at Cuesta College and the site leader for the Neighborhood Food Distribution at Paso Robles, attributes this uptick in participation to increase of students’ cost of living, often putting them in the position to choose between their academic needs and their food budget.

“College students who are working hard to create a career path shouldn’t have to choose between books or bread or a bed, but unfortunately that is a reality for many in our community,” said SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson. “During these trying times, greater than one-in-four Cal Poly students face food insecurity. This bill helps build a brighter and more self-sustaining future for our local Cal Poly Mustangs and Cuesta Cougars.”

About CalFresh

CalFresh is the long-term solution for Californians facing food insecurity and is designed to provide much of the hunger relief needed to bridge the gap to a brighter tomorrow for those in need. This federally funded program has the unique and transformative impact of affording dignity to those experiencing hunger and investing in our local business community by providing our most vulnerable neighbors with funds to procure food at local grocery stores and farmers markets. To find out if you qualify for CalFresh visit GetCalFresh.org or call 1-877-847-3663.

About the SLO Food Bank

The SLO Food Bank is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization serving all of San Luis Obispo County. The SLO Food Bank’s mission is to work with a network of community partners to alleviate hunger in San Luis Obispo County and build a healthier community. In 2021, the SLO Food Bank distributed over 4.1 million pounds of food through its Public Neighborhood distributions, a network of over 80 nonprofit Agency Partners, its Senior Home Delivery Program, and children and senior farmer’s markets. Last year, GleanSLO, a food rescue program of the SLO Food Bank, prevented over 310,000 pounds of local produce from laying to waste and instead nourished neighbors in need. To learn more about resources offered by the SLO Food Bank or ways to get involved, please visit www.slofoodbank.org.