SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. - College hunger is a growing problem for students nationwide.
"Food insecurity is one of the major challenges for students to complete their post-secondary degree or certificate," said Dr. Mark Sanchez, Cuesta College Assistant Superintendent/Vice President of Student Services and College Centers. "It's important for us because we want to address those issues and make sure our students are successful in their educational career goals."
According to a national study released last year by four campus-based organizations (the College and University Food Bank Alliance, the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, the Student Government Resource Center, and the Student Public Interest Research Groups), 48 percent of college students are facing hunger daily.
"This program is held once a month at both the San Luis Obispo campus and Paso Robles," said Food Bank operations officer Wendy Lewis. "We bring in a supplemental supply of food for the students and it helps them get through the month, takes a little edge off and gives them the food that they need."
On Tuesday, students lined up for bags of food at the San Luis Obispo campus, including first-year graphic design student Kristina Gonzales, who was using the program for the first time.
"I'm so appreciative of what they're doing here," said Gonzales. " It means a lot, really. To be able to get all this food. It's much more than I thought it would be."
Gonzales was there along with David Aguirre, who both said the high cost of living in San Luis Obispo County is extremely challenging.
"It's not easy," said Aguirre, a third-year student studying business administration. "Everything is pretty expensive. Hard to find a cheap place, so it's hard to makes ends meet."
To lessen the burden, students receive several bags of food, including fresh fruits and vegetables, canned and boxed goods, frozen meat, bread, juice and much more.
"It really helps all the students in need," said Gonzales "It helps us be able to focus more on what we're doing here at school and trying to achieve and get our degrees."
Sanchez agreed, noting that students fighting hunger face an additional pressure on top of their academic responsibilities.
"It's a basic needs philosophy," Sanchez said. "If the basic needs are not met, it's going to be difficult for them to stay focused on their educational goals, so we feel that by removing one of key the barriers in life's needs, we're addressing their ability to complete their educational goals."
Lewis notes the program is open and available to students in need, who only have to show up to the distribution location and provide just a little information.
"It's called self-certification," said Lewis. "We don't question that they're in need. If they come and ask for help, that's what the Food Bank and it's partnership with Cuesta is all about."
For those students that are taking advantage of the program, such as Aguirre, they say it's an important service to the campus and community.
"Usually we don't eat as healthy food, so getting a lot of vegetables, fruits and the other food that they offer, it's much better diet for college students," said Aguirre. "Just want to say thank you. Really appreciate it. For myself, I'm sure everyone else, we appreciate the help."
In addition to the Cuesta College student food program, Food Bank provides assistance to thousands of other San Luis Obispo County residents daily.
On Thursday, Food Bank will join KCOY during the annual Turkey Drive, which will collect turkeys, financial donations and non-perishable food for local people in need, such as college students.
To help take part, people can donate to the Food Bank at California Fresh Market in Pismo Beach, Vons in Atascadero and the Food Bank headquarters in San Luis Obipso.
The KCOY Turkey Drive will be help on Thursday, Nov. 16 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The Turkey Drive will also be held at the KCOY Santa Maria studios and Lompoc City Hall.
Donations in Santa Barbara County benefit Good Samaritan Shelter.
For more information on the event, visit KCOY Turkey Drive.