Basic Needs

Food Assistance Program


Food Assistance Program

Section 1

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Eligible students get invited to participate in the FRESH Basic Needs Hub Food Assistance Program (FAP) for the entire academic year. The program awards eligible students a grant award in the amount of $582 per quarter, known as the FAP Award. The goal of this program is to support food security among domestic students who do not have access to federal benefits such as CalFresh/SNAP or Federal loans. 
 

Background

For the past few years, we have helped hundreds of students to apply for the CalFresh program, a federally funded supplemental nutrition program (also known as SNAP), and we have seen firsthand the positive impact it has had on eligible students, as they receive a monthly allotment of funding (up to $204) to purchase groceries via an Electronic Benefits Card (EBT) every month. In working to increase awareness of the CalFresh program, we have been always cognizant of the equity gaps that currently exist as many otherwise eligible students and families are not able to access supportive services such as CalFresh because of their documentation status.
As our UC system network of basic needs centers and staff have continued to receive funding to expand our resources, we have kept in mind the need to create a homegrown food assistance program parallel to the CalFresh program, to offer students an equivalent fund to what CalFresh recipients receive to purchase groceries on a monthly basis. At UCI, we have decided to invest a significant part of our State funding for basic needs in creating the FRESH Food Assistance Program.

We hope that other UC’s will follow in creating similar award opportunities, and ultimately we hope to be able to advocate for this type of program to be expanded to students in other university systems in California and beyond.

FRESH FAP Eligibility

  • Currently enrolled in at least 6 units

  • AB540 eligible student

  • Not eligible for federal benefits

  • Must have at least $600 in unmet need in your Financial Aid package for 20-21

Student eligibility for the 20-21 cohort gets confirmed by the Office of Financial Aid Office and Scholarships (OFAS). Because eligible students have at least $600 or more in unmet need, they have room in their Financial Aid package to receive the quarterly $582 grant without affecting their Financial Aid. The quarterly grant will be disbursed via Financial Aid, and students will be able to see the FAP award listed on your Aid Award page once it’s manually processed.


Students who do not receive an invitation for this grant at the beginning of Fall quarter are not eligible to receive this grant. However, if a student's financial aid package changes during the academic year, they may still be added to the program at the beginning of Winter or Spring Quarter.

 

Award Disbursement

FRESH FAP participants will receive a grant via Financial Aid disbursement as follows:

  • Fall 2020: $582.00, by Week 2

  • Winter 2021: $582.00, with Winter aid disbursement

  • Spring 2021: $582.00, with Spring aid disbursement


Because this grant program is specifically designed to close equity gaps for a particular student population, and because a student must have room in their financial aid package for this grant, we do not have an application process for the grant. Simply, eligible students identified by Financial Aid are invited to participate for the academic year, and will receive the awards unless they opt-out.

 

Fall Quarter

  • After the quarterly fee deadline, OFAS provides the Director of the FRESH Hub with a roster of all eligible students

 

Winter and Spring Quarter

  • Grant is disbursed with your regular aid disbursement at the beginning of the quarter 

  • Because program eligibility is evaluated for the entire academic year, participants will continue to receive the grant in Winter and Spring, as long as they remain enrolled in school, and continue to meet the eligibility stated above

Funding

  • The FRESH Food Assistance Program is funded with State dollars via the basic needs allocation in the California Budget for 20-21

  • AB540 eligible students are fully eligible to receive state grants

  • The FRESH FAP is considered an educational grant, and thus is not eligible to be counted as a Public Charge

    • Receiving this grant would not negatively affect an individual’s status adjustment application in the future.


As a pilot program that has potential to expand to other campuses and across California, we are looking to evaluate the effectiveness of the program to be able to generate a report that can be used for legislative advocacy in the future. To this end, it is possible that later this year we might invite grant recipients to participate in surveys and/or focus groups as part of a research study. The details of our evaluation plan are still being defined in collaboration with our lead basic needs researcher for the UC system, and we will send further information when available. We ask you in advance to consider joining our evaluation opportunities to help expand this opportunity to more students across the state. 

 

Program Requirements

This program is designed to support student’s food security by providing them with a quarterly grant in the amount of $582 (Equivalent to CalFresh benefits of $194 per month) to support them in buying groceries and meals throughout the quarter. Recognizing that $194 will not necessarily cover 100% of a student’s food needs, the program also aims to help students build life-skills to empower them to maximize their food budget and resources. To participate in this year long program and receive the quarterly grant, we ask students to agree to the following:

  • Workshops will cover topics such as grocery shopping on a budget, nutrition, meal preparation, cooking skills, and financial wellness (budgeting, etc).
  • A list of available workshops will be announced via email
  • Workshops will be offered at different dates/times of the day to accommodate different schedules
  • Opportunities to make up missed workshops will be available throughout the quarter

 


  • While comparable supplemental nutrition programs such as CalFresh offer benefits on a monthly basis, our Financial Aid system only allows for quarterly grant disbursements, which means students will receive this grant at the beginning of each 3 month period, which will require that they budget accordingly to prevent food insecurity challenges in the later months of each quarter

  • We understand that other financial needs/expenses might raise, and this will be your funding to use, but we want to remind you that the grant was specifically designed to support your grocery expenses

  • In this pilot year, we will not be asking for proof of expenses for this grant, but this could change in future year as the program evolves


Occasionally, we will email or send a newsletter to share additional life-skills opportunities and announcements.

 

  • Participants are currently eligible to participate in the 20-21 program, and it is possible that they will be eligible in future years, but students will be notified every Fall quarter if they are eligible, as circumstances and eligibility might change from year to year

  • As a pilot program, we are currently able to support all students who are eligible based on the current eligibility criteria. While the aim is to continue expanding the program, the number of students we can support each year may vary if our funding changes or is reduced in the future.

  • Summer FRESH FAP grants might be available for Summer 2021 if funding availability permits. If so, students who register for Summer will be notified of their eligibility after the fee-deadline for Summer Session A. Please note that Summer session is part of our 2021-22 fiscal year budget, which won’t be finalized until June 2021.

If you have any questions, please contact us as follows:
 
For general questions about the program, please contact: 
Andrea Gutierrez, Director, fresh@uci.edu
 
For specific questions about the workshop schedule and requirement, please contact:
Keely O’Donnell-Boyd, Food Access Coordinator, keelyo@uci.edu