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New tools making it easier for to get food benefits

Posted: 10:00 AM, Jun 22, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-22 21:21:15-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- Too many San Diego families are struggling to put food on the table. As the cost of living goes up, many people grapple with hard choices like whether to save for rent or skip a meal. 

Tekara Gainey faced that exact predicament as a college student at San Diego State University.

"This was a time I was working three part-time jobs, going to school and still not having enough money to take care of myself," remembers Gainey.

One day she read an article about college students struggling to make ends meet taking advantage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Gainey applied and was accepted into the program.

"It was extremely helpful, it really transformed my entire experience going through school," said Gainey. "I could have healthy food."

College students are a growing population taking advantage of SNAP, known as CalFresh in California.

However, state officials say only 60 percent of eligible people are getting CalFresh benefits.

Anahid Brakke, Executive Director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition, says wages aren't keeping up with the cost of living for working San Diego families.

"It's time to get serious about the impacts of food insecurity and hunger, and make sure anybody who needs the assistance can get it," said Brakke.

Brakke says the county is working to make it easier for families to get the services.

In the past, you had to go into a county office to apply. Now there are several options:

The in-person experience has improved thanks to county Live Well centers housing numerous health and social services under one roof.

While the application process is still very detailed and can be complicated, there are people ready to help.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition contracts with 15 local organizations with locations across the County to provide CalFresh application assistance. Your local community clinic can likely help as well.

If you're approved, you'll receive an EBT card with money for groceries within 30 days.

Those who need help sooner might qualify for Three-day Expedited Service:

  • Your household makes less than $150 in monthly income and has less than $100 on hand right now
  • Or your household's combined monthly income and money on hand are less than your household's combined monthly rent and utilities
  • Or you are a migrant or seasonal farm worker and have less than $100 on hand right now.

Brakke suggests anyone with an income level 200 percent above the federal poverty level apply for CalFresh:

 

Retired seniors only have to reapply for CalFresh every three years. For everyone else, it's annually with a six-month check-in.

Those who are approved should know ahead of time that the average amount recipients get is $4.10 per day, so stretching the money does take planning.
 
But for recipients like Gainey, the effort was worth it. No longer receiving the food benefits, she now has a full-time job at a nonprofit and is getting her master's degree.
 
"People need it, people need help, so don't be afraid to ask for it."