In the beginning of this year, Yuba College established its basic needs center to connect its students with information and resources regarding food insecurity, housing, child care, transportation, financial aid, health and mental wellness.
Community colleges across the state have different programs aimed to assist students through food, housing or health care insecurities. In order to help cement these assistance programs for students, California lawmakers included $100 million in one-time funding, plus $30 million in annual funding, in the 2021/22 state budget for community colleges to establish a “basic needs center” on each campus by July 1, 2022.
Out of the 115 community colleges across the state, roughly one third missed the deadline to establish a physical basic needs center, CalMatters reported. Yuba College President Dr. Tawny Dotson confirmed with the Appeal that Yuba College met the deadline to establish its basic needs center and has established a basic needs plan and coordinator. Dotson also said the college is continually adding related services.
The center was officially opened on Jan. 3 with a food pantry being relaunched on Feb. 7. Vice President of Student Services Dr. Tonia Teresh said that the center was instituted in order to address students’ needs from a holistic view and remove any barriers to their education.
Student volunteers also help connect fellow students in a direct manner by tabling on campus to distribute snacks and information about the center.
“We have a small but mighty team of basic needs specialists who go out to students and normalize seeking help and using the resources available,” Teresh said.
One of the most utilized resources at the basic needs center is Dusty’s Pantry, which was reopened this year after closing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dusty’s Pantry offers grab-and-go snacks and distributes meal kits for students on campus. Between February and April, the basic needs center distributed over 2,000 grab-and-go items and over 400 meal kits, Teresh said. Meal kits often vary depending on what food items the pantry has on hand, but are meant to provide meals for around two days.
Basic Needs Specialist Anita Wilks said that the food pantry’s mission is to provide students with short-term food assistance while connecting them with long-term solutions like CalFresh.
“I’ve had a student with a family come in looking for assistance, so we gave him a meal kit to last a couple days. When he came back he told us that the two-day meal kit actually lasted them two weeks and he didn’t have to borrow any money for food,” Wilks said.
Information about other food pantries in the area are also given to visitors in need of assistance over weekends and school breaks or holidays.
The basic needs center also serves as a coordinated entry point for students to receive temporary housing or housing assistance, Teresh said. Information and referrals for emergency housing and shelters or long-term housing insecurity resources are available.
Teresh said that Yuba College is also working to establish telehealth, medical and behavioral health care through organizations like Ampla Health and Harmony Health Medical Clinic.
Student volunteer Aiden Averett said that her work through the basic needs center has equipped her to help others as she prepares to transfer schools.
“It feels resourceful to help each student,” Averett said. “I can take these skills and knowledge wherever I go.”
Teresh said that Yuba College plans on expanding its basic needs services in the near future. Some of its plans include participating in design discussions of the current student services building to include spaces for comprehensive wellness and connecting students to transportation services through Yuba-Sutter Transit.