San Diegans take CalFresh Challenge, living off $4 a day

Posted at 7:16 PM, May 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-09 22:16:32-04

Thousands of San Diegans who benefit from the CalFresh food stamp program receive less than $5 a day for food. That's less than a large frappuccino at Starbucks.

In an effort to bust myths and raise awareness for the program, some San Diegans are taking part in the CalFresh Challenge. They can only spend $4.18 a day on food for five days.

"You can squeak by, maybe, on this allocation, but what it means is no meat, vegetarian options. You can buy produce, but it's not local, it's not organic," said Anahid Brakke, Executive Director of the San Diego Hunger Coalition. "A lot of times when you buy produce at inexpensive grocery stores you have to allocate for some of it going to waste because some of it is already going bad in the packet you bought."

To prepare for the week, Brakke spent $18.50 at North Park Produce, saving the rest of her allotment for coffee. She said it took a lot of planning and preparation to complete the challenge, something many people receiving food stamps don't have the luxury of.

"If you have a cooking disaster that could mean people could go to bed hungry at night. Really everything is at much higher stakes when you have a limited income," said Brakke.

While $4.18 doesn't sound like much, thousands of San Diegans rely on it.

Soon-to-be graduate Sherry Guia is one of them.

"I've been on the CalFresh program since I found out I was pregnant. I really needed the help and I thought, I'm a student, I'm about to be a mom, I need to get any help I can get," rememberws Guia.

Guia says the assistance is temporary and that she's grateful for every penny. The public health major is graduating from San Diego State this Saturday.

Not only does Guia benefit from the CalFresh program, she helps others navigate it through her UC San Diego internship.

The UC San Diego School of Medicine Center for Community Health has teamed up with Northgate Gonzalez Market to enroll CalFresh recipients in the ¡Mas Fresco! program. Thanks to grant money, chosen participants receive a free dollar for every CalFresh benefit dollar spent on fresh fruits and vegetables, up to $40 a month for 12 months.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition says awareness of the reality of food stamps and their impact are more important now than ever before because federal funding is uncertain under the current administration.

"It would be really nice if we could take the shame away from needing assistance," said Brakke.

There's still time to sign up for the challenge or support the cause.