Concerns for basic student needs at Western Washington University are now being addressed through a new position in the Office of Student Life.
Jonathan Stubblefield began his role as Resource Navigator and Program Manager for Basic Needs and the Office of Student Life in the fall. His role is courtesy of a state grant from House Bill 1166 that went into effect last summer. Western is one of 12 institutions to participate in the pilot program the bill provides.
This bill outlines strategies these institutions must take to assist students experiencing houselessness and to students who were in the foster care system when they graduated from high school.
Through this grant, access to laundry facilities, storage, shower facilities, reduced meal plans/food banks, technology and short-term emergency housing are all areas Stubblefield and the Office of Student Life are working on providing to students in need. The Basic Needs program has gift cards as well as the ability to make small deposits directly into a student’s account if needed.
“If a faculty staff advisor or community member is concerned about a student, often the place they would go is the Office of Student Life,” Stubblefield said.
He is working on making these resources known to the Western community so students do not have to rely on referrals and can access help directly.
Western offers a variety of options for students experiencing food insecurity. Miller Market now accepts Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, Stubblefield said. There are also food pantries available on campus that have free non-perishable items and hygiene products provided by WWU Associated Students.
Swipe Out Hunger is another resource the Basic Needs program offers to assist in battling food insecurity. The program was paused at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic but was brought back this quarter. Through this program, students are able to donate leftover dining hall “swipes” that are then given to students in need.
“I donated because Bellingham in general is expensive,” Izzi Cooper, a recent Western alumna, said. “Food, school and housing is all very inaccessible.”
Cooper donated her “swipes” in 2019 and also made Instagram posts so people could reach out to her directly if they needed a meal.
A Basic Needs Survey was sent to Western students in fall 2021, and the information is being used to determine how Western will continue to tackle student needs.
44.7% of the survey’s respondents experienced some degree of food insecurity in the past 30 days of responding. 32.1% answered that they had experienced some degree of housing insecurity in the 12 months leading up to the date of the survey, Stubblefield said.
“Students struggle to engage in their education when they are worrying about their next meal, or where they’re going to sleep, or how to find another part-time job,” said Michael Sledge, executive director of Student Life.
Financial aid is another resource all students, regardless of financial status, are encouraged to use.
A common misconception is that financial aid only covers school tuition, said Dina Murphy, assistant director of Financial Aid at Western.
“The cost of attendance for students reflects costs associated with tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, as well as personal and transportation expenses,” Murphy said. “Students may be eligible to receive financial aid for some or all of these expenses.”
A Basic Needs Resource Panel will be held over Zoom on March 2, to go over the findings of the survey and to talk about the Basic Needs program. Students are encouraged to join, Stubblefield said.
“Promoting basic needs work and making sure all students have their basic needs met is a way to tangibly promote equity and to make sure equity is ingrained in our systems,” Stubblefield said.
Simone Higashi (she/her) is a third-year News Editorial student and senior reporter for The Front. Simone likes to knit and read in her free time. You can reach her at email@example.com.