UPDATE: Humboldt County's Department of Health and Human Services program awards $45,000 contract to Humboldt State’s Department of Social Work

Humboldt County's Department of Health and Human Services program awards $45,000 contract to Humboldt State’s Department of Social Work

HSU staff and students will soon find it easier to enroll in California’s CalFresh program thanks to a $45,000 contract awarded to Humboldt State’s Department of Social Work.

  The contract, which comes from Humboldt County’s Department of Health and Human Services, is targeted at expanding enrollment in the CalFresh program among Humboldt State students and staff, a population that is traditionally under enrolled in assistance programs. CalFresh is the state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

The HSU CalFresh Outreach, Enrollment, and Population Study rolled out on campus in late November, 2013.

Food insecurity and SNAP outreach emerged as national concerns after the economy crashed in 2008. According to Jennifer Maguire, Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Work, research links the lack of access to enough nutritious foods with serious health risks for people of all ages. “In California, we have one of the lowest SNAP (CalFresh) participation rates in the U.S. and colleges in general are viewed as having particularly low participation rates. We hope that the campus outreach and enrollment work will help students and staff increase access to healthy and affordable foods and help us learn more about the connection between college food security and academic success,” says Maguire, who is also co-Principal Investigator for the project with Dr. Ronnie Swartz.

As part of the program, 10 student engagement assistants (all Social Work students) were hired to support enrollment and retention, which includes educating staff and students about CalFresh programs and reducing barriers to enrollment. Students will receive on-going training and report to Ronnie Swartz, co-Principal Investigator for the project and co-Director of the Altruistic Personality and Prosocial Behavior Institute in the Department of Social Work. The student assistants will conduct online and in-person information sessions throughout the academic year.

Other outreach will be aimed at raising awareness of the CalFresh program through the campus’s weekly University Notices email digest, messages on the HSU portal, a website highlighting the complex eligibility requirements as well as enrollment resources and nutrition education. Printed materials will also be made widely available on campus.

"At our first outreach event on 2.12.14 we helped 26 campus members fill out CalFresh applications and conducted 42 interviews - a great beginning!" says Dr. Jen Maguire.  "Hearing members of our campus community share on a very personal level how they do not have access to the quantity and quality of food they need to be healthy and focused in school made it even more real how important the work is that we are doing" she continues.  "Our team feels inspired to continue to further CalFresh outreach on campus through HSU OH SNAP! and we are working towards implementing a sustainable outreach plan."