Basic Needs Initiative

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Cal Poly's Basic Needs Initiative seeks to ensure that all students have access to the resources needed to focus on education and success at Cal Poly. According to California State University (CSU) data, 27% of Cal Poly students experience food insecurity and another 12% experience homelessness. These problems affect hundreds, even thousands, of students and the consequences can impact their physical and mental health and academic performance. View the 2018 Cal Poly Basic Needs Report.

Task Force

The Cal Poly Basic Needs Task Force was inaugurated in 2016 as a working group and currently meets monthly during the academic year. Its purpose is to examine and contextualize the problem of basic needs insecurity at Cal Poly and to offer solutions to address this ongoing problem.

The Task Force is co-chaired by Joy Pedersen, Associate Dean of Students, and Aydin Nazmi, Associate Professor in the Department of Food Science and Nutrition. Its members represent Alumni Relations, ASI, Athletics, Cal Poly Corporation, Campus Dining, Campus Health and Wellbeing, Career Counseling and Education, Counseling Services, Office of the Dean of Students, Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), Facilities, Financial Aid, Green Campus Program, Office of the President, Student Affairs, University Housing and Residential Life, and community members and organizations.

CSU Basic Needs Initiative

Critical to student success at the CSU, the Basic Needs Initiative takes a holistic look at students’ well-being both inside and outside the classroom, from housing and food security to mental health. We’re working together to find better ways support our students on their path to graduation. View the CSU Study of Student Basic Needs.

Senate Bill 85

In March 2018, thanks to Senate Bill 85 the California State University announced the distribution of over $2 million across its 23 universities to support student success and the CSU Basic Needs Initiative. Cal Poly received $130,000 to help students dealing with homelessness and food insecurity. As part of the $130,000, the university received a $50,000 Innovation Award (one of 12 throughout the system) to create model programs that can be shared with other CSU campuses. Cal Poly's innovation initiatives include developing technology to connect students with resources and creating a community kitchen and garden.

Key Terms

Basic Needs

The fundamental, minimum requirements necessary for a decent standard of life and physical, mental, and social well-being. In the context of this report, we refer primarily to food and housing, but basic needs may also include issues such as safety and security, sanitation, access to clean water, and clothing.

Food Insecurity

The state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. ‘Anxiety over food access’ is considered marginal food insecurity while outright ‘hunger’ and ‘not eating for an entire day due to lack of resources for food’ is a more extreme manifestation.  “Low” and “very low food security levels are defined as “food insecurity” by the USDA, and “marginal” and “high” food security levels are not typically considered “food insecurity”. The word ‘hunger’ is sometimes used colloquially to describe food insecurity.

Housing Insecurity

Variably defined as having difficulty paying rent,having frequent moves, living in overcrowded conditions, or doubling up with friends and relatives. In the college context, instability may take the form of frequent moving of residence due to lack of resources or eviction, or temporary or chronic couch surfing. Homelessness refers to lack of a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, characterized by living in motels, hotels, or camping grounds due to lack of alternative adequate accommodations or living in a car or other location not designed for being a residence.

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