The Arbor Debuts CalFresh
Campus Dining is proud to announce that The Arbor is now accepting CalFresh EBT cards! CalFresh, federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a USDA program offering nutrition assistance to millions of eligible, low-income individuals and families. Enrollees receive EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards that can be used to pay for food and beverages. CalFresh is the largest program in the domestic hunger safety net, and is accepted at many grocery stores, but the Arbor is the first on-campus outlet to accept EBT.
Cisco Celis (at left), Assistant Director of Campus Dining, facilitated the effort to bring CalFresh to UCSB. Motivated by memories of his time as a hungry, broke UCSB student, Celis began what was supposed to be a 15-minute application process, and persevered through what became a seven-month odyssey. Among other hurdles, Celis submitted reports showing the Arbor offers a wide selection of nutrient-dense foods — a major requirement for program participation — and worked with Arbor management on a comprehensive staff training program.
Many campus organizations, individuals, and offices were involved in the effort to bring CalFresh to UCSB. Associated Students and Goodspeed Fellow Christian Ortiz Gonzalez passionately advocated for and promoted the program. On behalf of the Global Food Initiative, the UCSB Food Security Task Force allocated funds from SB 85 to purchase the equipment necessary for processing the EBT transactions. After running a successful pilot program during fall quarter, The Arbor officially launched the program in December 2018, and it has been very well-received. Since its inception, EBT recipients have used their card 34,839 times, amounting to total sales through mid-March of $229,430. Weekly, the Arbor is averaging $15,000 in EBT sales, and a weekly average of 2,267 EBT transactions.
The Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships estimates that about 10,000 UCSB students are eligible for CalFresh. Over 2,600 students enrolled in the program during the 2017-2018 school year, and Food Security Coordinator Melissa Fontaine estimates that an additional 3,000 will apply by the end of the 2018-2019 school year. On the success of the effort, Celis comments, “I too am excited for this program to be up and running. Being able to provide a necessary service to students who are food insecure is essential.” Before the Arbor began accepting EBT, students had no choice but to leave campus in order to use their CalFresh funds. Celis feels it is important that low-income students now have convenient access to nutritious food to fuel their busy days on campus.
By Krista Fritzen