Students’ basic needs must be met in order for them to thrive.
That was the central message Toros conveyed to Congressmembers Adam Schiff and Nanette Barragán during a visit to the CSUDH Urban Farm on March 4. Schiff and Barragán, who represent California’s 28th and 44th districts respectively, met with students to discuss food and housing insecurity, as well as what can be done to meet their basic needs.
The visit came a day after the representatives introduced the Food for Thought Act of 2022—a bill which would provide free meal programs to community colleges and minority-serving institutions to help end food insecurity among college students.
Before Schiff and Barragán sat down to talk to students, CSUDH Sustainability Manager Ellie Perry led them on a tour of the CSUDH Urban Farm. Perry explained that the farm has provided the campus with a living laboratory and fresh food for distribution to students since 2018. During the pandemic, the farm even expanded its offerings by producing soaps made from garden herbs for Toros needing hygiene products.
“Everything we produce goes back to our students,” Perry said.
Following the tour, the congressmembers joined CSUDH President Thomas A. Parham, Manager of Student Support Bianca Bisi, and nine Toro students for a conversation about their experiences. Many of them shared stories about running out of food, facing eviction during the pandemic, and trying to piece together limited social services that cannot keep up with demand. Others explained that a lack of family financial support means they have no safety net.
One of the students, for whom it has taken 10 years to earn his degree, said: “Sometimes you have to decide ‘Do I want to eat?’ or ‘Do I want to be able to pay for gas to go to work?’ and it becomes this vicious cycle. Sometimes you have to stop going to school because of stuff like that.”
Barragán, whose district includes CSUDH and Carson, empathized with students—a first-generation college student herself, she had struggled with food insecurity and trying to source loans.
“We need our students to be able to focus on studying and not worrying about their next meal,” she said.
Parham also shared the challenges facing the campus, and how the university administration is competing for funds in order to try to provide for students. He implored the congressmembers to remember CSUDH students’ stories.
Schiff thanked the students for opening up about their experiences, and commended them for their tenacity in pursuing higher education.
“It shouldn’t be so hard,” he said. “It is an extraordinary tribute to all of you that you have persevered against really phenomenal odds—and some of you, without the support or encouragement of your parents. I have tremendous respect for what you’ve accomplished already by being here.”