CSU East Bay HOPE program offers sustenance for students

Cal State East Bay officials say they are serving an increasing number of students who are going hungry.

The university has a program called HOPE, short for Helping Our Pioneers Excel, which helps students with their basic needs such as food and housing.

The school is expanding on its programs and that includes a food pantry right located on campus.
"It's so much more than a closet with food," says Louis Ramos, a senior at Cal State East Bay.

The university opened the Hope Pantry on campus to provide sustenance for students trying to survive the rigors of getting a college education with little or limited resources.

“The name HOPE really resonates with me 'cause it's kind of what it's given me," says the 21-year-old Ramos.
The pantry opened in October 2016 with a little more than a handful of students using it. Now six months later, the pantry is serving at least 100 students.

"The excitement of the students knowing that the university cares this much and the need has grown," says Alex Baker, case manager coordinator with CSUEB.

Ramos and other financially-strapped students are able to get a supply of food once a week and access hot meals in the dining hall.

There are no criteria. Students only have to ask for help.

"There were times when I wouldn't eat for a day or two and I wouldn't even think of it. I was focusing on where I was going to stay." says Ramos.

He says he would couch surf and sleep in classrooms after hours.

He's now sharing an apartment with roommates.

Ramos is not alone in struggling with homelessness.

We first met Brenda Brown, another homeless student, on campus last fall.

She was living out of her car.

With the help of HOPE, the 55-year-old now has a roof over her head, a room at the home of a retired university employee.

"It means the world. It lets me know people do care," says Brown. She says she had a tough time after losing her job as an administrative assistant in the recession of 2008.

Brown is now scheduled to graduate in June.

She's looking for a career in helping people who are homeless

"That's where my heart is leading just with my own experience and journey," says Brown.

In addition to the pantry, students are able to access food with their ID cards through what's called the Swipe Program at the dining hall.

They can get hot meals and fresh produce.

"This is exactly what I was searching for. This is what I needed. This is the thing that keeps me here at college, keeps me from going home to a dead end job to support the family," says Ramos.

In addition to access to the dining hall, CSUEB officials say a food kiosk will go up at the school library by the end of May.

A long term goal is to have a HOPE center that offers food and housing help --a one stop shop on campus by the next school year.