Reasons why Basic Needs Programs are needed on college campuses
A VC alumnus, John Ruff came to the college as an out-of-state student to play football. He remembers living off sourdough bread. Despite food insecurity, he says Ventura College was “unreal,” with cool people all around and perfect weather Ventura was like “heaven on earth.” A new program on campus, Basic Needs, began when the college was awarded money from the SB 85 to register students in CalFresh. A recent study done by the Wisconsin HOPE Lab found 42 percent of community college students are food insecure. The program was expected to see four to five students per day which quickly evolved to anywhere between 12 and 20 students daily. As student needs were revealed Ruffʼs position expanded to assist with running the food pantry, addressing housing needs, and becoming the go-to person on campus for students in need. Ruff has created valuable partnerships with local stores such as Lassens and Walmart, Food for Less, Ralphs and Food Share. Every week anywhere from 3500-4000 pounds of food are provided not only to students but also to the greater community. This means your grandma, sister, best friend, and even you, can access the food pantry if needed.
Basic Needs Program also serves VC East Campus
Because Ruff has been in students’ shoes, he understands the challenges many face meeting basic needs. The most important thing to Ruff is that students feel comfortable. The age range of students he serves is between 17 and 67. Basic Needs services even cover Ventura College East Campus where Ruff delivers food bags in the morning and at night two times a month. Ruff is innovative as he looks to address needs where they are. In the twelve months he has been in the position he has made a huge impact by doing innovative things such as working with the food truck vendors to create and secure food vouchers for students in need.
What the Future of Basic Needs looks like
As the program grows the Basic Needs Specialist would like to see more needs met. He envisions having on-campus dorms for students; as an increasing number of students are self-reporting as homeless or unable to pay for rent. Ruff already works with homeless students as a liaison with Annette Hernandez (Financial Aid Specialist/Homeless Student Liaison) to ensure they have access to lockers, showers on campus, access to financial aid and early priority registration for those who qualify. The Ventura College Basic Needs Department looks to increase accessibility to food, housing, and mental wellness along with financial resources –that’s a big goal – but the campus is leading the way for the District and is on the right path to making sure basic needs are no longer a need for students.