Season II Episode 4 – CFHL Nutrition Education on College Campuses ​

Date Recorded: 5/1/2024

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Tune in to the latest episode of Stocking the Pantry, titled “CFHL Nutrition Education on College Campuses.” Host Tee engaged in an insightful conversation with Alyson Wylie, Program Manager at Chico State’s Center for Healthy Communities, and Claudia Lopez, a Dietetic Intern and M.S. candidate in Food & Nutritional Sciences at California State University, Fresno.

In this episode, explore strategies for engaging California college students in nutrition programs and learn how to leverage dietetics and nutrition students as effective peer educators.

Join the discussion by sharing your thoughts in the Podcast Category on the Nutrition Security Peer Learning Community.

New episodes are set to debut at the end of each month.

Come curious, leave inspired, and share your thoughts with us on Instagram at @leahspantryorg.



[00:00:02] Colby D'Onfrio: Welcome to Stocking the Pantry: a CalFresh Healthy Living Podcast from Leah's Pantry. We'd like to acknowledge our funder, the CalFresh Healthy Living Program, an equal opportunity employer and provider. On this show, we discuss any and all things community nutrition, food equity, and nutrition security. This is a space for thought leaders to share success stories and strategies for equity-centered and resilience-building initiatives.

We hope to foster collaboration and community as well as leverage strengths among listeners, guests, and hosts as we share ideas and dreams of building a more equitable future where everyone has access to healthful nourishing food. Hello and welcome to Stocking the Pantry. I'm Colby, and today we are excited to share a conversation that my fabulous co-host Tee had with Alyson Wylie and Claudia Lopez about CalFresh Healthy Living programming on college campuses.

Alyson Wylie is a program manager at the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State, and Claudia Lopez is a dietetic intern at Fresno State preparing to graduate this May with her Master's of Science. The Center for Healthy Communities, commonly abbreviated as CHC, has been doing important work in the Chico community since 2001 when it started as a single health program.

In the last 23 years, it has grown into more than 30 programs and provides services all over California, including the 13 counties of Chico State service area. CHC strives to connect with and support individuals and partners across California by helping them access nourishing food and active environments. They invite college students to gain useful career skills through programs that provide direct support to local community members and partner organizations.

Now, you may be wondering why college students need and benefit from the CalFresh Healthy Living Program, but college students have long been an overlooked population when it comes to hunger and food access, especially as tuition and the cost of higher education continue to increase. College students face additional barriers to accessing nutrition assistance programs. In part because of a federal law from the 1970s that requires students to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for CalFresh or SNAP benefits.

Working 20 hours a week while being a full-time student is a lot, and I know I wouldn't have been able to do it when I was earning my undergraduate degree. I was fortunate enough to have the time and opportunity to engage in extracurricular activities, which greatly contributed to my learning and job prospects post-graduation. I wouldn't have been able to do these if I would have had to work 20 hours a week to be eligible for nutrition assistance.

This law feeds into an outdated idea that college students have reliable financial support, don't have dependents, and have plenty of free time outside of class to work. The reality is that college students are wonderfully diverse and come from a variety of backgrounds. Some students have children and want to provide them with a better life by getting a higher degree themselves.

Others are coming from disenfranchised communities trying to break the cycles of poverty, and now they have to overcome even more barriers to feed themselves and get a college diploma. This law has big consequences. College students across the country go hungry at an alarming rate. In California, specifically, the legislative analyst's office estimates that 44% of undergraduates and 26% of graduate students experience food insecurity. That is a lot of students.

Where there is food insecurity, there's an opportunity for education and collaboration. CalFresh Healthy Living takes food security one step further to nutrition security. Nutrition security recognizes that although someone may have food in their belly, they may still be lacking important nutrients. Instead of just looking at the amount of food that someone does or doesn't have, nutrition security looks at whether someone has consistent access to enough food that supports a balanced diet and active lifestyle.

Part of nutrition security is nutrition education, and this is precisely where the work of Alyson and Claudia comes in. We are going to let them tell you about their experience providing CalFresh Healthy Living programming to college students. Enjoy.


[00:05:26] Tee Atwell: Welcome, Alyson and Claudia. I would love to take this moment and have you two introduce yourself to the audience by sharing your name, title, and perhaps some background about your journey to Cal State University Chico, Center for Healthy Communities. Why don't we start with you, Alyson?

[00:05:44] Alyson Wylie: I'm Alyson Wylie. I've been a program manager with the Center for Healthy Communities at Chico State for about 13 years. I've worked on many projects in my time at CHC, including about 10 years on CalFresh Healthy Living funding in the rural north state with K-12 schools teaching nutrition and physical activity. Currently, I work in higher education on both the CalFresh Outreach team and I have the opportunity to implement CalFresh Healthy Living with college students.

Today, I get to talk about CalFresh Healthy Living on college campuses, a pilot project to evaluate CalFresh Healthy Living programming with college students right now on 13 CSU campuses.

[00:06:26] Tee: Thank you so much for sharing that, Alyson. Claudia, we'd love to know more about your journey and current education goals and focus.

[00:06:36] Claudia Lopez: Hi. Thank you for having me. I attended Fresno State for my undergraduate degree and I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Food and Nutritional Sciences. My career goal is to become a registered dietician nutritionist. I applied to Fresno State's combined Master's of Science and Dietetic internship right after through the [unintelligible 00:06:56] matching process. I was grateful to be selected as one of 10 students in the program.

This past January, I've completed my dietetic internship, which consisted of 1,200 supervised practice hours in the areas of clinical, community, and food service nutrition. It was a great experience for me to work and learn from some amazing dieticians within our community at these different rotations. It gave me the opportunity to explore areas that I might be interested in working in after graduation.

Since my career is to become a registered dietician, I see myself working in either a community setting in preventative health or in a clinical outpatient setting focused on nutritional counseling. I'm very much open to all the possibilities ahead, but for now, I am currently focused on finishing up the last few weeks until graduation in May.

[00:07:49] Tee: Congratulations. What a compliment to be one of 10 as well. Thank you so much, Alyson and Claudia. It's great to have you both on the show and to hear about your personal journey and the strides you are making. This next question, we're going to jump into it and I'm going to direct this one to Alyson. Can you tell us about the work that the Center for Healthy Communities and CFHL or CalFresh Healthy Living have done together historically, and how that work has grown and evolved recently?

[00:08:22] Alyson: Yes, thank you. CHC, or Center for Healthy Communities has been working with college campuses through CalFresh Outreach funding in higher education for years. We truly recognize the needs that college students are facing. We've also had that SNAP-Ed funding for years. We know the value of nutrition education in the community. As one of the first in the nation, we're pilot testing CalFresh Healthy Living activities on college campuses. Honestly, this is our dream project.

There's a lot that's happened in the last 10 years in basic needs for college students. This project lets us add on to work that's already happening with CalFresh and we're working on creating a culture on campus where the healthy choice really is the easy choice. CalFresh outreach addresses food insecurity, but this project brings the nutritional security aspect.

What do students do with the food they get from the pantry? How can we help them budget and how can we help that money last?

We partnered with Leah's Pantry to develop a curriculum that meets the needs of college students, and we conducted focus groups throughout the state. We found out what students wanted in the way of cooking classes.

[00:09:36] Tee: Brilliant. I wish you were around 20 years ago when I was in college. [laughs] This is amazing. What challenges and barriers do you feel students face in making lifelong healthy changes in their diet and nutrition?

[00:09:52] Alyson: It's such a good question. I appreciate that you're saying that you would've enjoyed this 20 years ago. I would've enjoyed this as well when I was a student. There truly is a spotlight on college students as a newer target audience for CalFresh Healthy Living, because more than half of CSU students are from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds. Nearly half of undergraduates receive the Pell Grant, nearly one-third of undergraduates are the first in their families to attend college.

Then nearly 460,000 students enrolled in the CSU in the fall of 2022. Think about it, when you were a college student or when you first moved out on your own, how did you feel about being responsible for feeding yourself? How did you feel about cooking, about nutrition, and how did you make those food dollars last?

[00:10:44] Tee: Beautiful. Thank you so much for providing us with this context, and that really is the big question there. CHC is doing some incredible work. Alyson, what encourages and inspires you to keep doing this work? Where do you see yourself making the most significant impact in college students' lives?

[00:11:08] Alyson: I love working in higher ed with many campus teams. I love that I get to be here today with Claudia. I have to tell you, I'm a big fan of all of Claudia's work as well. I see the effect the work has on college students. Working with students is absolutely my favorite part of the job. It's so exciting that we're bringing that nutrition security piece to campuses who then train student facilitators to teach nutrition education. That peer-to-peer education is the exciting part.

I love hearing stories about students learning knife skills or finding culturally relevant recipes with produce given to them by their campus pantry, and they have fun. That part's important too.

[00:11:51] Tee: Very much so. Definitely has that personal connection and peace. I feel so inspired and passionate about your work, and it's so important. Clearly, you have inspired others in this field. Claudia, can you tell us how you have been impacted or influenced by the CFHL program and Center for Healthy Communities?

[00:12:18] Claudia: Yes, thank you. I was really excited when I first heard of CalFresh Healthy Living Program at Fresno State, and this was back in August of 2020. I was working as a student assistant at my campus pantry with Jessica Medina, who was the food security coordinator at the time. As soon as she mentioned this program, I knew I had to be a part of it in some way. We love talking about nutrition and just sharing the passion of educating students, and so she hired me on as a student educator for the classes.

Although we started during the pandemic, we were able to find so many creative ways to reach out to students and provide these nutrition education tools. Seeing the impact that these classes have on students, and giving them the tools to make healthier choices, and learn new recipes has been truly rewarding. I'm thankful to still work with Jessica since she is the CHC program manager overseeing the Fresno State Campus along with other campuses.

Her and Alyson's passion for this work and creativity have been really influential. I'm sure that the CalFresh Healthy Living and CHC team would agree. The skills that I've learned and the confidence I've gained through teaching CalFresh Healthy Living classes have also opened up opportunities for me as a dietetic student. I created and taught other nutrition education and cooking classes for other departments on campuses using the evidence-based nutrition practices that I've learned as a dietetic student.

I worked with my campus health and wellness center to teach cooking classes for their wellness retreat, and I've educated students on food and mental health. I've also worked with our campus Cross-Cultural and Gender Centers Latino/Latina Program to create a class focused on cultural foods. I don't think this would have been possible without the experience I've had working with CalFresh Healthy Living and teaching the Leah's Pantry curriculum.

[00:14:15] Tee: Now, Claudia, you may have a different perspective than Alyson as a future educator, as a student. As a student yourself, what are some ways that participation in CFHL nutrition classes impacts the lives of college students like yourself, and how may it impact their self-efficacy?

[00:14:40] Claudia: As a student myself, I've had that unique ability to also see and enjoy the impact that these peer-to-peer environment have on other students. It makes the learning environment fun and encourages students to enter the space ready to learn and try new things together. I've also found that they feel comfortable asking questions, and it creates a great social studying for students to learn from each other during the cooking sessions.

These environments where students learn nutrition education and are taught cooking skills, and get to practice these skills can help contribute to students' self-efficacy by giving them confidence in their ability to make healthy nutrition choices. Learning and sharing with their peers in these spaces can also make behavior change more likely to occur further, increasing their self-efficacy. As part of CalFresh Healthy Living's PSE for Fresno State, dietetic interns can also do a rotation with CalFresh Healthy Living.

This community nutrition rotation teaches interns how to connect with and work with college students. They learn about the program, complete training on trauma-informed nutrition care, and create educational materials and social media content including cooking reels, which is always fun. They also end their rotation by leading a CalFresh Healthy Living class. They get a well-rounded experience of what it's like to work in community nutrition and work for programs such as CalFresh Healthy Living.

[00:16:15] Tee: Wow. Hearing these insights and lived experiences, give me the chills and true joy inside. Claudia, would you happen to have a personal story to share? I don't mean to put you on the spot or anything.

[00:16:30] Claudia: Yes, I'd love to. One experience that has impacted our work was working with Fresno State's Wayfinders students. The Wayfinders is a program for young adults with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities. Participants enhance their independence by residing in student apartments. They participate in work experience internship and are enrolled at courses at Fresno State.

This past summer, Wayfinder students participated in our class cooking series. It was really inspiring to work with the student population. Seeing these students learn new cooking skills and guiding them through it was really rewarding. You can see and feel students' confidence grow with each class as they learn new skills. These students were able to learn how to chop vegetables, how to try different cooking tools, and learn different techniques.

One of the things that was my favorite thing to see was how they changed drastically from their first session to the third session. The first session, they were a little bit nervous being in a cooking environment, and by the third session, they didn't need any help. They were just ready to go. They were ready to chop vegetables, they were ready to participate in all of the activities. To me, that was truly rewarding part of working with CalFresh Healthy Living and seeing these students feel confidence in themselves and their abilities to create healthy changes.

[00:17:57] Tee: Wow. Talk about self-independence and empowerment at its finest. Very beautiful. Alyson and Claudia, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you both and learning about the work you're doing. Before you both go, Alyson, can you please share how our listeners can follow up with you or stay updated with the Center for Healthy Communities activities at Cal State University, Chico?

[00:18:30] Alyson: Thank you. You can find us on Facebook, Instagram, or X, previously Twitter @CHCChicoState, and our website at

[00:18:48] Tee: Wonderful. We will also have that information in our show notes. For Claudia, how can our audience learn more about what you're involved with or CFHO programs at CSU Fresno?

[00:19:03] Claudia: Students interested in learning about CalFresh Healthy Living classes can follow our student pantries Instagram account @studentcupboard. Those who are interested in getting involved with CSU Fresno's CalFresh Healthy Living Program can contact our Food and Nutrition Department by emailing our department chair, Erin Dormedy at [email protected].

[00:19:29] Tee: Perfect. Thank you for that. Got to ask, before we say farewell to our listeners, what do you stock in your pantry, literally and/or figuratively? Whoever feels ready to share, the mic is yours.

[00:19:46] Alyson: I love this question. It's such a fun question. Tee, you can't see me, but I'm literally standing in my kitchen for this interview. My pantry reflects the season of life I'm in. I consider myself a good cook. I make dinner almost every night. I love to cook and I love dinner-time conversation. I have adult kids and little kids and grandkids that poke through my pantry. You will always find grapes and blueberries and mandarins and apples in my crisper and wine in my cupboard.

[00:20:17] Tee: Well, what time is dinner? [laughs] That's so funny. I did so much meal prep this last weekend and meal-prepped a lot of fruit. A lot of what you were talking about. I think I ate about half of the meal prep before it got into the refrigerator. Then, it was just easy grab-and-go like, "Why have I not been doing this before?" Your fridge and pantry sound just up my alley. [laughs] Awesome. Thank you for sharing. What about you, Claudia?

[00:20:49] Claudia: I love this question. It's my favorite part of your podcast at the end when people get to share this. Literally, what I stock in my pantry is fruit. I grew up in the Central Valley in Orange Cove which is a small agricultural town outside of Fresno. I also went to high school in Reedly. We are known as the world's fruit basket. My pantry is always stocked with different seasonal fruit.

I am also that friend that always has snacks on hand. I'll have some protein bars, crackers, and fruit gummies just ready to go, but most importantly, I think the thing that I pride myself on always having stocked as a busy graduate dietetic intern is coffee. You'll find a variety of coffee stocked, all kinds, whole bean, instant. It's all there. That's definitely what I literally stock my pantry with.

Figuratively, I stock my pantry with inspiration. I make sure to fill my mind with things that inspire me and nourish my creativity in different aspects of my life. I also make sure to add quiet time to my pantry to stay grounded and reenergize myself so that I can continue showing up and supporting others.

[00:22:02] Tee: Well, mic drop right there. Okay. [laughs] Yes, I love that. Thank you so much for sharing. It's truly an inspiration to hear from you two. I am definitely waiting for both of my invites. I'll bring my pantry on too. I'll bring my fruit and all that good stuff. We can just make it a party. [laughs] Thank you so much, Alyson and Claudia, for joining us today. I really enjoyed hearing about your work and I'm so inspired by your drive and dedication.

All right, listeners, until next time, take care. Ciao.

[00:22:48] Colby: Thank you so much for hanging with us today. Do you know a thought leader or someone doing great work in your community? We would love to interview them. We would love to hear from you. Connect with us online at or email us at [email protected]. We can also be found on Instagram, @leahspantryorg.

This podcast is a product of Leah's Pantry made possible by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an equal opportunity provider and employer. Visit for healthy living tips.


[00:23:45] Colby: Stocking the Pantry invites guests with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives. Guest opinions are their own and do not represent the views of Leah's Pantry.