University to highlight food insecurity

Homelessness in Sonoma County is a reality that is seen daily. According to a final report from the annual countywide homeless census in January, Sonoma County’s overall homeless population shrunk 2 percent from last year, to 2,835, but has been noticeably increasing since the fires in October. 

Jennielynn Holmes, senior director of shelter and housing at Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, said, “post October 8, we’re seeing people coming through our doors who we have never seen before.” Previous to the fires, Holmes explained that in the past 5 years homelessness in Sonoma County had been reduced by 37 percent. The next countywide homeless census is scheduled for this Friday, and moving forward, Holmes is “hoping Sonoma county continues to pour out with love, support and charity to continue to rebuild our community.”

While homelessness in Sonoma County may be the first thing to come to mind, a recent study by the CSU Chancellor’s Office reminds that students often struggle with hunger and homelessness. The study reported that 41.6 percent of all CSU students report some level of food insecurity; Sonoma State students reported similar results at 40.8 percent. The report also showed 10.9 percent of all CSU students reported experiencing homelessness within the last 12 months; Sonoma State students reporting 10.4 percent. 

In response to this, Sonoma State President Judy K. Sakaki said, “hunger and homelessness is a significant problem for many college students, including many of our Sonoma State students. I am deeply troubled that any of our students are food insecure or are having difficulty finding a place to live. Students cannot focus on their studies if they don’t have enough food or are worrying about where to live.”

To counteract these statistics and make a positive change in these people’s lives, Sonoma State University on-campus organization, Join Us Making Progress, will be hosting a Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week on campus from Monday to Friday. 

The purpose of this event is to “This event is designed to educate students about food and housing insecurities as well as give them an opportunity to go out into Sonoma County and volunteer,” said Casey Elbert, director of human services for JUMP.  

Third year human development major Pricial Madrigal said, “these events really makes me realize what people are going through in my community and how differently people have to live their lives.” Through the multitude of events, JUMP hopes to make students more aware of what some people within the community experience daily. This event encourages SSU students to evaluate their living conditions, and compare it to that of others who may not be as fortunate. “Some of the people who might benefit from this could even be our classmates,” Madrigal said, “and I think that’s crazy. Why wouldn’t we want to help, as a community?” 

Each day throughout the week, JUMP will offer a variety of events and donation centers on campus. Campus community members can find donation bins in the Student Center all week for them to drop off new hygiene items for nonprofit shelters in Sonoma County. Acceptable items include socks, underwear, deodorant, toothpaste, razors, hair ties etc. Victoria Parker, SSU student and Human Services coordinator at JUMP, said, “JUMP is focusing on hygiene products as donations because sometimes the need for these items are overlooked.”

Various events will be held throughout the week, with the purpose of getting students to better understand what it is like to experience food insecurity. On Monday, in the Alexander Valley room, JUMP had blanket making and movie viewing, where they invited students to create tie blankets that will benefit shelters in Sonoma County. On Tuesday, they will invite students to The Hungry Banquet, where they can experience what it is like to dine in a third world country. JUMP encourages donations at this event as well.     

While Monday and Tuesday are the only days events will be held on campus, on Wednesday students and volunteers will participate in the Hunger for Change Day of Service, at the Redwood Empire Food Bank. Students can sign up to join JUMP and volunteer at the Redwood Empire Food Bank using the web address https://orgsync.com/145076/forms/301829. 

In addition to these events, Elbert invites “all students, staff, etc to join in the celebration” of the official “Lobo’s Pantry ribbon cutting next Friday February 23rd at 10am.” President Sakaki is excited to speak at the ribbon cutting where she will be donating items and asking the Sonoma State community to “demonstrate together just how wonderful and caring a community Sonoma State is!”

For more information visit  jump.humanservices@sonoma.edu and follow @SSUJUMP on Instagram and Facebook.

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