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Campus Successes – CSU Northridge

Basic Needs Office Established to Create Single Point of Entry for Students Seeking Resources

Picture of CSUN Food Pantry, Summer 2022

California State University Northridge (CSUN) has been providing food basic needs services for many years, beginning with the establishment of the CSUN Food Pantry and CSUN CalFresh Outreach (CFO) programs in late 2016. As the programs continued to grow to meet our student needs, the centralization of these services became paramount in order to best meet the needs of our campus community. This natural progression of centralizing the programs under a Basic Needs Office allows for the programs to work hand-in-hand without having to send students from one office to another. Thus, students who visit the CSUN Food Pantry or Pop-Up Pantry are able to easily learn about CalFresh Food and be provided with Outreach application assistance. Students who apply with us through our CFO program are able to learn about CalFresh Healthy Living (CFHL) nutrition education and benefit from the different topics we offer, which we then link back to our CSUN Food Pantry. Since all of our programs are able to be accessed congruently, the centralization has allowed us to cross-train all of our student assistants and allows for easier cross-promotion of events and information such as Harvest of the Month and Days of Action.

The addition of CFHL on College Campuses allowed our existing Food Programs to elevate their level of service by bridging the gap between access to food items and the knowledge needed to actually create meals. Our staff have observed scenarios in which students have been provided with shelf stable foods from the CSUN Food Pantry, and/or fresh goods from the CSUN Pop-Up Pantry, but they were refused or returned due to a lack of understanding on how to utilize them.

CFHL funding has provided our Food Program efforts with the resources to meet our students where they are. Having a nutrition education component alongside provision of goods not only makes sense, but has been a great addition to our portfolio. CFHL was well received because it encouraged students to make use of previously intimidating food items, which in turn contributed to less food waste. Furthermore, students developed skills necessary for successful self-nourishment in a meaningful and applicable way.

Though the centralization of the Basic Needs Office was not part of our PSE, the single point of entry model for Basic Needs had previously been discussed on our campus. A perfect example of the success that centralizing the programs has forged, is through the shared reach created through the cross promotions on the CFHL, CFO and CSUN Food Pantry social medias. Students may choose to follow one or all three media outlets and be exposed to different but connected content which increases the reach to not just those who follow us on the CFHL social media, but those students who follow any of our Food Programs medias.

Fall 2021 saw the establishment of the Basic Needs Office under the Division of Student Affairs. This unified basic needs resources under one umbrella. The consolidation of the infrastructure was a win even for our long-established Food Programs, allowing for cross-promotion and cross training. Additionally, it permitted existing collaborations, partnerships, and best practices to be leveraged for the benefit of all Basic Needs Office programs, resulting in warmer handoffs for referrals.

Some positive outcomes of our centralization can be seen in the completion of our PSE effort with our faculty partners; helping to adopt a basic needs statement and the fortification of connections with different service-learning courses to have a consistent stream of service-learning students join our CFHL, CFO, and Pop-Up Pantry teams.

The flow between programs is greatly simplified and students who access our services receive a holistic approach to their needs. Directing outreach efforts and cross promotion is easier for our Basic Needs Office team. CFHL efforts are easily targeted to those who have applied for CalFresh benefits. The CalFresh student team can emphasize how to preserve foods that are highlighted by HOTM, which encourages students to participate and integrate them into their meal plans. The CSUN Food Pantry, in turn, emphasizes the usefulness of that food item in any of its forms (fresh, frozen, canned) and how to utilize it. All bases are covered.

By having CFHL on campus we have been able to round out our food programs and provide essential nutrition education. The centralization of the Basic Needs Office has gifted us with the opportunity to enrich our students lives. We’re providing meaningful connections and encouraging our students to apply new knowledge to where they are in their lives right now.

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Campus Successes – CSU Northridge

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