Teaching and Learning Tip #39: Building Relationships with Students Matters: Basic Needs

September 25, 2018

Tip #39: Building Relationships with Students Matters: Understanding Basic Needs

Contributed by Ravin Craig, Health Education, Chant’e Catt, and Jen Maguire, Social Work

The truth is students need food and a good night’s sleep to succeed in courses. By building relationships with students through listening to their stories before and after class and during office hours and advising, we can hear about what they may be struggling with that create real barriers to academic progress. When students know we care enough as faculty and staff to make sure they have food and a roof over their head, we provide evidence many students may need to believe they are welcome and belong here at Humboldt State, and that they are not alone as they strive to achieve their dream of earning a college degree.

In the past few years we have been working hard to learn about the extreme conditions many students tolerate to earn a college degree. In a recent CSU study, prevalence rates for food insecurity and homelessness were severe, and at HSU even more so (Crutchfield and Maguire, 2018). The findings presented below are from surveys HSU students took as part of a system-wide study examining CSU students’ basic needs insecurity. Surveys were taken by 16.6% of HSU students (n=1,415) and are generally representative of the HSU student body.

  • 45.8% of HSU students reported food insecurity in the past 30 days. National prevalence rates for food insecurity among U.S. households in 2016 was 12.3% (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbitt, Gregory, & Singh, 2017).
  • 19% of HSU students reported experiencing homelessness one or more times in the last 12 months based on the combined Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Education definitions.
  • We also learned that food insecurity and homelessness influenced most facets of student life, including academic struggle, long work hours, and negative impact on mental and physical health.

Frankly, talking about students’ access to adequate nutritious food or a safe place to sleep at night gets a lot more complicated when we think about inequality and the cumulative disadvantages associated with poverty and racism.

  • In the same study, but with the full CSU sample (N=24,537), we found that students who identified as Black and African-American and first-generation to attend college experienced the highest rates of food insecurity (65.9%) and homelessness (18%).

If we build authentic relationships with students, they can trust us enough to ask for help. Then we can refer them to Basic Needs resources when needed and other important supports, such as the Cultural Centers for Academic Excellence or A.S. Clubs, to help students develop a network of people who can be ‘family’ away from home.

We put together a list of supports for when you find yourself with a student who needs emergency access to food, housing or confidential health services. The list is not comprehensive, but enough to get students started. 


  • HSU Oh SNAP! Student Food Programs: Oh SNAP! is a student driven health education resource to help students get access to nutritious low cost/free food, and is dedicated to ending student hunger. We offer free nonperishable food, CalFresh application support, nutrition and cooking education, fresh farm stand, gardening classes, food reclamation, and our new pop up thrift store. The pantry hours are from 9am to 5pm, closed noon to 1pm Monday through Thursday and closed noon to 2pm on Fridays. The farm stand is Wednesdays at 1:30pm and our cooking classes are Wednesdays at 5:30pm. All Oh Snap services are located in the Recreation and Wellness Building room 122. Email ohsnap@humboldt.edu, or go to hsuohsnap.org for more info. Follow @hsuohsnap on Instagram to stay updated!

  • HSU Off-campus Housing Liaison: Contact Chant’e Catt by phone 707.826.3451 or by via email at housingliaison@humboldt.edu The Off-Campus Housing Liaison helps with a multitude of housing questions, and situations including supporting students who are transferring from afar, even transitioning from on-campus living to off-campus. The liaison helps students having roommate issues, or may be houseless. Chant'e offers, rental listings, roommate listings, legal resources, and referral, support with rental the application process, mentorship, and connection to community resources on campus and throughout Humboldt County.  

  • Wellbeing Map: The Interactive Wellbeing Map is a tool to help students in making connections, finding community, and building a healthier life at Humboldt State University. Health is not a linear process, there is no start or end on our journey to building positive relationships to our body & community. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need tools and resources to guide us. The Map has been created using the technology used in our classrooms, Canvas, and can be accessed by visiting wellbeing.humboldt.edu

  • Campus Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE Team): To assist you in accessing on and off campus resources. Specifically, resources such as food security, housing needs, mental health, medical services, alcohol and other drug treatment, and other basic need resources are shared. The general purpose of CARE is to be a safe and trusting campus resource to assist and support students navigating with non-academic needs and issues. If you have any questions, you can contact the CARE Services Coordinator, Rob Keever by phone at (707) 826-3504 or go to the Office of the Dean of Students in Siemens Hall 211.

  • Basic Needs Security Syllabus Statement: If you are having difficulty affording groceries, accessing sufficient food to eat every day, or lack a safe place to sleep at night, and believe this may affect your performance in this course, then I urge you to notify me if you are comfortable in doing so.  This will enable me to provide you with resources. You may also contact the Campus Assistance Response and Engagement (CARE), Oh SNAP! Student Food Programs, or Chante’ Catt, HSU Off-campus Housing Liaison for support.


Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbitt, M. P., Gregory, C., & Singh, A. (2017). Definitions of Food Security. United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/food-nutrition-assistance/food-security-in-the-us/definitions-of-food-security/

Crutchfield, R. M. & Maguire, J. (2018). California State University Office of the Chancellor Study of Student Basic Needs. Retrieved from http://www.calstate.edu/basicneeds

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