President’s Corner: Let’s talk about about HSC, CalFresh and how to get involved with GSG

USC’s 27,500 Graduate and professional students are spread across several campuses, including the University Park Campus, Health Sciences Campus, City Center, Alhambra Campus and Wrigley Marine Science Center. The campus with the second-highest number of graduate students is HSC.

This year, GSG Senior Vice President Sam Cwalina, with the support of the HSC directors and Senators, is aiming to address food insecurity at HSC. Currently, there is a scarce number of food options at the campus to serve the tens of thousands of students, staff, faculty, visitors and patients that visit HSC daily. The few on-campus eateries are only open until 4 p.m. — except The Edmondson Faculty Center, which is open until 7 p.m. on weekdays — and there are no dining options on weekends. Furthermore, HSC and the surrounding area is a food desert, leaving few off-campus options.

Earlier this year, GSG conducted a survey to assess the academic and health impacts of food insecurity at HSC. A staggering 83.3% of respondents, which also included staff and faculty, expressed dissatisfaction with the current on-campus food options. Most of the frustration stems from the lack of variety and the lack of healthy options, as well as the inability to purchase food at times when it’s most needed due to financial constraints. 

This survey allows Cwalina and I to develop and recommend solutions to university administrators. As GSG, we have the responsibility to serve the graduate student population across all USC campuses. The Edmondson is a less-than-ideal food option for HSC students. Due to their high prices, dining at the restaurant regularly wouldn’t be sustainable for students. To combat food scarcity and pricing, SmartFridges were installed across HSC, providing more food options for the HSC community. The SmartFridges were created by Everytable to provide health meals in food deserts. However, these can only service a small percentage of people at HSC and are by no means the solution to the HSC food insecurity crisis.

GSG’s Executive Board and Senators have also been working on multiple resolutions aimed at University administrators this semester that focus on student issues, with food insecurity being one of them. The first up for voting on Oct. 21 is GSG’s CalFresh Resolution, which will ask that food vendors and markets become CalFresh-authorized vendors.

To become an authorized vendor, a given retailer must meet certain federal eligibility requirements (quantity and types of foods stocked) and apply for official certification with the USDA. This provides USC with the unique opportunity to join a small group of innovative universities as a leader in its commitment to moral responsibility and diversity at all levels of the institution while also increasing the revenue of campus eateries. 

The resolution also calls on USC to institute a CalFresh matching program, which would offer dollar-for-dollar matching funds for a customer’s federal nutrition assistance benefits, to further increase access to food on campus. 

Resolutions passed by GSG are documents or motion that addresses graduate student concerns. These documents are presented to the Senate and passed by simple majority. 

Any graduate student may propose resolutions or amendments, but they must be sponsored by at least one sitting senator. Given this is a government process, there are procedures for proposing resolutions or amendments. 

Notice of resolutions or amendment must be given to the director of elections and recruitment at least one Senate Meeting before the Senate Meeting in which the resolution will be proposed.  Proposing senators are required to send a draft of the resolution or amendment to the director of elections and recruitment at least one week before the Senate meeting in which it will be proposed. 

To pass a resolution or amendment voting may take place in the same meeting in which it is proposed, or may be delayed to the next meeting. Expedited voting can happen in urgent cases at the discretion of the Director of Elections and Recruitment. Resolutions or amendments are presented at the closest Senate meeting and voted upon online up to one week following the presentation.

The students on this campus are represented within each of Graduate Student Government’s branches — administration, advocacy and programming — and the GSG senior vice president. The administrative branch contains a HSC director of finance who is dedicated to aiding HSC student organizations. The advocacy branch includes tje HSC director of diversity and equity. The programming branch contains three HSC directors of communications, community service, and social programming.

GSG’s policies, executive board and senators may seem like a far removed system from a graduate students focused on school — but GSG’s leaders are on the same boat too.

The passion I have for research is the same passion I have for helping my fellow graduate students focus just on being students while at USC. If you have an idea about tackling an issue on campus, start at GSG. 

Skye Parral is the GSG President, writing about ongoing and upcoming GSG initiatives. The column “President’s Corner” runs every Tuesday.