CalFresh: Fighting Food Insecurity One Person at a Time

GCC Student Ambassadors work to encourage students to apply for financial assistance to pay for food


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GCC’s CalFresh program works to provide all students with a stocked food pantry as well as supports them through other financial means.

With finals week rapidly approaching at Glendale Community College (GCC), students will soon prepare to take their last exams for the semester. However, with some facing food insecurity, studying could become a difficult task as students must juggle between focusing on basic necessities and academic work. 

To help with this situation, GCC has been collaborating with CalFresh Food, a federal program that provides financial assistance every month to low-income individuals and their families to purchase food. GCC Cares Program Manager and On-Campus Advisor for the California Community College Student Ambassador Program, Andre Manukyan, explained the partnership between GCC and CalFresh, stating, “GCC provides CalFresh outreach and application support. We can work with students who need help applying by doing a Zoom meeting and helping them fill out the entire application. Students who need help applying can schedule a meeting with us by emailing [email protected].” Informing students about resources such as CalFresh has been a challenge as Manukyan conveyed, “My number one goal is to make sure that any student who is eligible for CalFresh is able to obtain CalFresh. We know from data that this is not currently happening, so we hope to close that gap.” 

This is what the Student Ambassadors from the California Community College Student Ambassador Program will promote through their outreach. Nicole Garrett, a third-year psychology major, and Sarahi Briseno, a second-year communications major, are two of the 15 Student Ambassadors. “I wanted to be a Student Ambassador as my mission to pay it forward. As a re-entry college student, I’ve experienced and have overcome food insecurity as a result of CalFresh. I want to inform, encourage and guide individuals like myself to available resources,” Garrett said. 

Garrett and Briseno described a variety of outreach events that they are planning for the upcoming semesters including, workshops, partnerships with the GCC Food Pantry during Thanksgiving and Christmas, in-person tabling events, and club, organization, and classroom presentations. Briseno expressed, “There is a sense of not just empowerment from this opportunity as a student, but of the goodness that comes from informing others of the many resources such as CalFresh.”

CalFresh provides financial assistance in purchasing food for individuals and their families. According to Manukyan, “In some cases [it] can be as much as $250 per month (or $3,000 per year) in food benefits that the student can purchase from a grocery store.” The problem is that numerous students are not aware that CalFresh could help them. Garrett described other benefits stating, “The simplicity of the application and EBT card is another benefit. It is so beneficial to get your EBT card reloaded every month on the same day with the same amount!” Another issue is that some people do not think they are eligible to gain financial assistance from CalFresh. To this, Briseno explained, “Even if you think you don’t, you might. Think of your pocket, think of your wellbeing, think of finals with a full belly.”

The stigma around CalFresh and similar services also prevents some people from applying. Garrett expressed, “I would like to destigmatize the notion that one is poor, lazy, or simply depleting available government resources. This is in fact not true, but simply put into place for individuals like ourselves to overcome food disparities.” The overarching theme is for students to apply even if they do not believe they are eligible.

Beyond CalFresh, other resources also exist that could aid students with food insecurity and financial issues. “However, once you receive CalFresh, you might also be eligible to join GCC’s Fresh Success program, which provides other support, including Target or Ralphs gift cards, bus passes, textbook support, and rental or utility support,” Manukyan said. “Our food pantry is a great resource for students who are experiencing food insecurity. We operate four days a week, and students can come up to one time a week to pick up food. Students can schedule appointments by visiting” Additionally, students who face food insecurity have the opportunity to apply for a $1,000 emergency grant by Nov. 28. Students may go to to apply. 

GCC’s Student Ambassadors have been working with CalFresh to plan numerous events in the coming months in the hopes of encouraging a greater number of students to gain the resources that will help them succeed. “I am looking forward to seeing students feel comfortable applying,” Briseno said. “Just like I tell my kids, if you have a satisfied belly, not only do you feel better, but you function better.”

To learn more about CalFresh and to complete an online application, please visit: 

To learn more about GCC’s Food Pantry and to schedule an appointment, please visit: 

Jacqueline Kamei can be reached at [email protected].