#MythbusterMonday - May 2017 Myths Busted

We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series dispels misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.

May was CalFresh Awareness Month so we dedicated each Monday to busting a myth related to CalFresh (also known as SNAP or Food Stamps) and the different people who depend on this program to get ahead in a time of need.

May 1

The first Monday of the month we take a look back at the myths busted the previous month. Check out the myths we busted in April 2017 here.

May 8

From May 8-12 we held our annual #CalFreshChallenge. Each year we challenge people who don't have to worry about having enough food to live on the average daily CalFresh/SNAP benefit per person in San Diego County which is now $4.18/day. We dedicated our social media posts this week to sharing about the #CalFreshChallenge and the valuable new appreciation gained from this lived experience. Click to see what people had to say about the #CalFreshChallenge on Facebook and Twitter

May 15

#MythbusterMonday "Homeless people aren't eligible for CalFresh/SNAP benefits because they don't have a permanent address." False! "You can qualify for benefits if you don't have an address or if you live at a shelter." Click here and see #1 to learn more.  

May 22
#MythbusterMonday "There is no hunger in the military." False! According to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger every Marine and Naval base in the county (and possibly the Army and Air Force too) allow charities to host regular food distributions on base to help struggling active duty military families. Click here and see #5 to learn more, then sign our petition to tell Congress hunger among military families is unacceptable! 

May 29

#MythbusterMonday "Being hungry is just part of the post-adolescent college experience." False! Hunger on campus is a real problem. According to Feeding America 1 in 10 of the adults they serve are students. CalFresh can help. Click here to learn more. 

Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter

2017 #CalFreshChallenge - Cassandra's Challenge Experience

Each year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition challenges people who don't have to worry about food to live off of the average CalFresh (also known as SNAP or food stamps) benefit per person in San Diego County. The 2017 #CalFreshChallenge took place May 8-12 and participants lived on a food budget of $4.18 for one day or $20.92 for five days. This year, many of the Hunger Coalition's anti-hunger partners that work to enroll eligible people in need in the CalFresh program took part in the Challenge. Cassandra Reese, a CIRS Enrollment Specialist at 2-1-1 San Diego shares her #CalFreshChallenge experience below. 2-1-1 San Diego serves as a nexus to bring the community (organizations) together to help people efficiently access appropriate services, and provide vital data and trend information for proactive community planning.


Grocery list

  • Eggs (18) - $3
  • Dry Beans 1 lb $ 1.75
  • Cheese 1 lb $4
  • Sour cream $1.98
  • Cottage Cheese $2.98
  • Peach cups $1.88
  • Drink packs (10) $1.00
  • Margarine $1.00
  • Ritz crackers $1.98

Total 18.80

My Plan is to alternate between eggs and cottage cheese with fruit cups for breakfast. The Ritz came with four packs so this is my snack for the entire of week

I had planned to have backed potatoes with sour cream for dinner, but that won’t happen unless I can find a bag of potatoes for under $2 because that’s all I have left in the budget.

The red beans will be lunch for the week. I was going to put it in tortilla for bean and cheese burritos. So I’ll either chose between the potatoes or tortillas with the remaining budget.

Day 1  Upbeat & ready to go

  • Breakfast - 3 hard boiled eggs
  • Lunch - red beans w/ cheese slices
  • Snack - Ritz crackers
  • Dinner - will also be red beans
  • Drink  - 1 peach tea packet w/ water

Day 2 The hardest day

I was soooooooooo hungry!!! I didn’t plan my meals or snacks well enough to prevent or get through the hunger. I was so hungry that I ate through over half of the snack (crackers) that I had bought to last the entire week. It made me wonder if families in need also run into this dilemma and use up most of their CalFresh benefits or the food they bought for the month in the first few days/weeks and then struggle to have enough food to sustain them through the rest of the month.

After I shared with my coworkers my day one experience, including my grocery list and my remaining budget, a couple of them suggested that I go to the 99 Cent Only store.  Since, I only had $2.10 left in my overall budget I decided to go to see what they had available.

To my surprise the 99 Cent Only store not only had everything I had bought Day 1 at Walmart, but also for more than half the price. If I had only gone to this store first I would’ve been able to get DOUBLE the food and snacks to last me throughout the week. I would have also been able to get fruits, veggies, and more.  So with my remaining $2 I bought tortillas and an extra snack to last me the rest of the week.

Day 3 The Day of Temptations

Still hungry but not constant cravings like Day 2. Today’s challenge was temptations throughout the day. The first hour of work I was offered donuts and coffee. Then on my way to my break I was offered candy. At lunch, in the break room there were free sandwiches and the most beautiful looking spinach, cranberry, feta cheese salad with balsamic dressing. My resolved almost faltered after seeing the salad. Later,  a coworker decided to sit a bag of chips on my desk when I went to the printer. When I came back I took the bag of chips back to their desk.

After work, when I went to pick up my daughter my mom gave me a tray of pastries to take to my daughter's class the next day for teacher appreciation day.


While preparing dinner I was presented with another moment of understanding. I started to make my dinner when I saw that I was running very low on all the food I’d bought. So I started to worry and ration the portions of how much I could eat and still have enough left for the last two days.

Day 4 Almost there

The home stretch is here and still hungry but not as much.


I MADE IT……HOORAY!!!!!.........BUT still hungry!

I am happy and yet disheartened all at the same time. Happy because I was successful at completing the challenge and my awareness of hunger is more prevalent than it has ever been.  But disheartened because I know families on CalFresh don’t have the ability or option to go back to spending whatever they chose on meals and their struggle to provide food for their families is ongoing. The poverty and working poor gap is widening everyday while benefits are diminishing. Under the current administration, the state of these much needed benefits are hanging in the balance. I wish the San Diego Hunger Coalition much success and support in your daily efforts to bring about hunger awareness and funding for your MISSION TO END HUNGER.

#MythbusterMonday - April 2017 Myths Busted

We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series overturns misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.

In April we busted the following hunger myths:

April 10

#MythbusterMonday "SNAP recipients use their benefits to buy alcohol and cigarettes." False! These items cannot be purchased with SNAP. Click here to find out what items are eligible.

April 17

#MythbusterMonday “SNAP investments have no long-term payoffs.” False! Access to the Food Stamp Program at early ages—starting before birth in cases where the mother received food stamps during pregnancy, and continuing through age five—leads to many positive long-run health and economic outcomes. See fact #8 here

April 24 

#MythbusterMonday “People on SNAP sell their EBT cards for cash.” False! EBT cards were designed to prevent this. “With EBT, you can’t just sell the card -- you’d also have to give the buyer your PIN number. And you’d have to trust they were going to bring the card back to you” says economist Craig Gundersen who has researched food stamps for 20 + years. Click on the here to learn more. 

Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter - @SDHungerCo. 

We're a Proud Partner of the #MarchForScience!

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is proud to partner with the March for Science taking place nationwide and here in San Diego on April 22. We rely on science every day in our work to end hunger in our San Diego County through research and evidence-based programs and policy. Our region is home to nearly 500,000 people who are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough to eat for an active, healthy life. Of these people, nearly 1/3 are children. Without science, we would not know which populations need food assistance, and what are the most effective ways to reach them.

Ways we use science to fight hunger

  • We use data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey to learn about poverty and federal nutrition program eligibility in San Diego County. Finding out how conditions are changing in our communities helps us to plan and advocate for the needs of people struggling to put food on the table.
  • We partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research to analyze their 2014 and 2015 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data to develop the most current and accurate food insecurity rates for San Diego County. In doing so, we can provide an in-depth look at the landscape of hunger and hunger relief services to better understand the types of food assistance available, current gaps and underutilized funding opportunities. 
  • We worked to integrate food insecurity screenings into healthcare settings in San Diego County by coordinating Rx for CalFresh pilots across six unique healthcare settings and developing a food security and healthcare curriculum in partnership with UC San Diego School of Medicine. Today, healthcare professionals are better equipped to screen for food insecurity and connect people to CalFresh (California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as “food stamps”), one of our nation’s most effective anti-hunger programs.
  • We use data and research provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better understand food insecurity throughout the nation and the impacts of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC.
  • We incorporate data in our advocacy work and meetings with policymakers at the state and federal levels to protect government assistance programs like CalFresh and School Meals. In 2016, our Hunger Advocacy Network secured success for key bills and budget asks to ensure that all people in San Diego have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. 
  • We use data from the California Department of Education to estimate participation rates in school meal programs at every school district in San Diego County. This lets us identify what’s working and innovative opportunities to feed more children like breakfast in the classroom.
  • We analyze data from the CalFresh program to find opportunities to support our CalFresh Task Force’s work to increase efficiency and effectiveness so all eligible people in need can enroll in the program.
  • We share data and learnings with our partners so they can more effectively fulfill their own missions and serve as many hungry people as possible.

We use science to measure our impact and identify places to course correct when needed. It allows our work to be efficient, grounded, fundable, and ultimately truly effective. Join us in supporting science on April 22 and register for the San Diego #MarchforScience here. Registering allows the march organizers to update the march logistics and programming as well as keep track of overall attendance and collect basic, useful information on who is attending so they can tell the story about this march when it is over.

Join the March for Science San Diego's Facebook event page to get the latest information and resources leading up to and after the march.

Unable to attend the #MarchonScience? Donate to support the costs for day-of-logistics, technology, outreach and operations for the march.  

To directly support the San Diego Hunger Coalition's work to end hunger in San Diego County donate here.

Save the Dates! Our CalFresh Challenge is right around the corner - May 8 - 12

Our analysis indicates that nearly 500,000 people in San Diego County do not have enough food for a healthy, active life. Our annual CalFresh Challenge helps raise awareness and money to end hunger in our community. For one day or up to 5 days, we encourage people who don’t have to worry about not having enough food to try living on a food stamps budget. In San Diego County, the average CalFresh budget for one person is $4.18 per day or $20.92 for 5 days.

How to participate:

1. Register for the Challenge
Let us know you’re participating by registering, even for the 1-day challenge! The more people who sign up, the more attention this cause will receive. Participants can take the CalFresh Challenge for 1 day or 5 days between Monday, May 8 and Friday, May 12. After registering, participants will be sent the challenge guidelines and tips for meal planning on an extremely limited budget. Register here.

2. Stick to the budget and share your experience
During the CalFresh Challenge, your entire grocery budget will be $4.18 for 1 day or $20.92 for 5 days including all meals, beverages and snacks. This is the average food stamps benefit per person in San Diego County. Participants are encouraged to share their experience on social media using #CalFreshChallenge. Review the Challenge guidelines.

3. Fundraise and win prizes
Make an even greater impact in the fight against hunger by raising money between May 1-15 to support the work of our CalFresh Task Force to make sure all eligible people in need are able to enroll in the program. This year, participants who raise $100 or more will receive a free San Diego Hunger Coalition tote bag – a small token of our appreciation for your support. Top fundraisers will receive prize packs of gifts from our generous community partners. Create your fundraising page.

4. Celebrate Your Accomplishment and Support a Good Cause!
Come mingle with staff, partners and friends of the San Diego Hunger Coalition and celebrate this year's CalFresh Challenge participants and top fundraisers at Benchmark Brewing Company (6190 Fairmount Ave. Suite G.) on Thursday, May 25th from 5:30-7:30 pmIn support of CalFresh Awareness Month, Benchmark Brewing Company is selling 16 oz. pours of their Table Beer for $4.18 every Sunday in May! The Table Beer will also be available at this special price during the happy hour on May 25th. 

Happy Hour at Benchmark Brewing Company
Thursday, May 25
5:30 - 7:30 pm

6190 Fairmount Ave. Suite G.
San Diego, CA 92120

You can read about last year’s challenge and hear from participants about living on an extremely low food budget on our CalFresh Challenge blog.

Hunger Advocacy Network Visits Members of Congress in D.C.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting #CalFresh with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting #CalFresh with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff.

Members of our team traveled to our nation’s capital to support and protect CalFresh and School Meals in San Diego County at the federal level as part of the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference held from March 5-7. Our Director of Policy & Advocacy Diane Wilkinson led members of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN) including Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank, along with our CalFresh team of Amanda Schultz Brochu and Marcia Garcia, in representing the San Diego region. The Hunger Coalition attends national conferences to connect with others in the field, learn innovative new approaches to their work, and best practices from other communities.

The annual conference provides opportunities for anti-hunger advocates across the nation to network with each other, build relationships with members of Congress, and attend informational sessions on topics ranging from using data to support storytelling to Breakfast-After-The-Bell Programs to immigration and public benefits to the effects of the economy and policy on food insecurity. On the conference’s Lobby Day, Diane and members of HAN met with San Diego’s members of Congress to discuss protecting nutrition and food assistance at the federal level to better serve our local work to end hunger. They met with Representative Scott Peters and his staff, as well as the staffs of Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Juan Vargas, Darrell Issa, and Susan Davis.

This year’s conference addressed the uncertain future of government assistance programs under a new administration. A major discussion point was the danger of block granting food assistance programs. Block grants would provide set funding amounts for these vital programs which can be detrimental in cases when there is an economic downturn or a natural disaster as this form of funding is prohibited from adjusting to cope with changing circumstances. Additional topics addressed were the need to protect the entire safety net (not just access to food), the importance of school meals in the future success of students, and how to work across the aisle to preserve programs that keep Americans fed.

The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference was co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum.

You can view some of our team’s favorite moments and other conference attendee experiences at this year’s National Ant-Hunger Policy Conference by searching the hashtag #hungerpc17 on social media.

Hunger Coalition writes grant with City of Oceanside to expand Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs

Oceanside children will soon have access to more food after school and during the summer thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded to the City of Oceanside by the National League of Cities.

Oceanside children will soon have access to more food after school and during the summer thanks to a $20,000 grant awarded to the City of Oceanside by the National League of Cities.

Oceanside will soon be able to better address child hunger thanks to a $20,000 grant from the National League of Cities. With the CHAMPS grant funding, the Hunger Coalition will partner with the City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District to raise awareness about child hunger and increase participation in the city’s existing out-of-school meal programs, and launch new afterschool and summer meal sites. Thanks to the Coast News for their coverage of this initiative 

The Hunger Coalition will serve as the project manager for the CHAMPS grant and will work closely with the City of Oceanside on the development, implementation and monitoring of progress for this initiative.

An important part of this work will be convening summer meal sites and sponsors to be part of the North County Youth Meals Task Force. This group will work to strengthen relationships and business processes with the City, the school district, school nutrition offices, day care centers and preschools, local government health and human services agencies, nonprofit and faith-based organizations, and low-income housing complexes to increase the number of summer meal sites and participation and programming at existing sites. The first meeting of the North County Youth Meals Task Force will be held at the end of April. All North County summer meal sites and sponsors are invited to attend.

North County is often categorized as a wealthy community, but many areas exceed the County’s poverty rate of 13.89%. Oceanside has an overall poverty rate of 14.2% (1 in 7 people below poverty level), but has many neighborhoods where the rate is higher than 20% (1 in 5 people below poverty). Oceanside aligns with current statewide food insecurity rates, whereas 1 in 4 children do not have enough to eat, and 17 of 20 low-income students fall into the summer nutrition gap.

More information on the Hunger Coalition’s work to expand access to youth meals across San Diego County can be found here.

San Diego Hunger Coalition’s 2017 San Diego Summer Meals Task Force began meeting in March. They meet every month through September. For more information about the San Diego or North County meetings, please contact Robin McNulty at robin@sdhunger.org

Amanda presents on Hunger & Healthcare at Statewide Conference

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity.

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity.

Experts in the healthcare field are now better prepared to screen for food insecurity in their settings thanks to a presentation made by our CalFresh Outreach Director Amanda Schultz Brochu at this year’s California Food Policy Advocate’s CalFresh Forum.

The annual forum brings together hundreds of key stakeholders from across the state to identify opportunities and discuss strategies to improve the reach of CalFresh.

Amanda was a panelist with other public health and hunger experts presenting on models from their communities for identifying food-insecure patients in healthcare settings and connecting them to CalFresh and other food assistance programs. She presented on the San Diego Hunger Coalition's 2014-2016 work to integrate food insecurity screenings into healthcare settings in San Diego County, which included coordinating Rx for CalFresh pilots across six unique healthcare settings and developing a food security and healthcare curriculum in partnership with the UC San Diego School of Medicine. This work was the basis for our groundbreaking report Launching Rx for CalFresh in San Diego County: Integrating Food Security into Healthcare Settings.

Most of the San Diego pilots utilized the two-question screener developed by the USDA which has been scientifically validated to accurately identify individuals who are currently experiencing food insecurity. In a sample of 30,000 patients, the two-question screener identified 97% of food insecurity cases.  Patients at participating healthcare providers were asked to answer “often true,” sometimes true,” or “never true,” over the last twelve months if:

1.    We worried whether our food would run out before we got the money to buy more.

2.    The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.

The San Diego pilots also helped identify the best options for enrolling patients in CalFresh ranging from referring patients to a local nonprofit providing application assistance, which can be a challenge for patients if the organization is not located within close proximity to where a client lives or works, to on-demand on-site assistance which has the best enrollment results but requires a full-time application assister. Clinics and hospitals that provide their own CalFresh application assistance often pair this with their existing Medi-Cal assistance program. 

An important part of Amanda’s presentation were the lessons learned from our Rx for CalFresh pilots. These included training medical staff on the connection between food security and health outcomes, as well as how to pose what can be very sensitive questions. Integrating screenings into Electronic Health Records was also found to be key in evaluating the process and outcomes and creating replicable templates that make it easier for more healthcare settings to use. 

Each panelist stressed the importance of being results driven and creating measurable action in order to get funding and effect policy as well as  using a collective impact approach to share learnings and metrics with others in the hunger, poverty and healthcare fields.

As a result of Amanda’s presentation, Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County has already reached out to a healthcare system in their area to explore integrating food security resources.

Congrats to Marcia & all of this year’s “Freshy” Award Nominees!

San Diego Hunger Coalition CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia

San Diego Hunger Coalition CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia

At this year’s California Food Policy Advocate’s CalFresh Forum, our very own CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia was part of prestigious group recognized for their outreach to expand and improve the CalFresh program in their communities. She was among the leaders nominated for the conference’s “Freshy” awards in the category of Innovative Outreach Leader of the Year. Partners are encouraged to nominate and vote for each other. The awards also recognize outstanding program administrators, grassroots mobilizers, and improvements in CalFresh utilization rates by individual counties.

Marcia has worked with the San Diego Hunger Coalition to increase access to CalFresh for the past two years. During that time, she has demonstrated herself to be a leader in providing technical assistance and guidance to both clients and partners in navigating the complex CalFresh regulations and eligibility guidelines. She has served as a facilitator for Benchmark Institute’s FAST training and has developed countless outreach materials to spread the word about important program changes affecting San Diego County. Marcia regularly goes the extra mile to make applying for CalFresh easier. Her commitment to the CalFresh community and those served by the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s work can be heard every day as she brings levity to challenging conversations.

Marcia was among 10 experts nominated for the Innovative Outreach Leader of the Year. Also amongst those nominated was San Diego’s Juliana Vega, CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at our partner the San Diego Food Bank. The Freshy was awarded to Elizabeth Gomez, Associate Director of Client Services for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. While there could only be one winner this year, we are so proud Marcia was recognized for her great work to end hunger in San Diego County. The communities of all of the nominees benefit directly from their contributions.

Rep. Susan Davis re-introduces Military Hunger Prevention Act to Congress

Rep. Susan Davis meets with a constituent at an anti-hunger event. 

Rep. Susan Davis meets with a constituent at an anti-hunger event. 

Military families face unique barriers to food assistance. They receive a basic allowance for housing which is determined by where they are stationed, among other factors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the modern version of food stamps known as CalFresh in California) and sets eligibility requirements considers this allowance part of their income. The IRS and several federal assistance programs do not consider military housing allowances as income. This red tape and confusion around what consists as income leaves tens of thousands of San Diego’s military families struggling to put food on the table because they are not eligible for CalFresh.

Last month Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego) re-introduced the Military Hunger Prevent Act (H.R.1048) to Congress to make accessing food assistance easier for service members and their families. This bill would prevent military housing allowances from being used to determine eligibility for SNAP. Rep. Davis was joined by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK), and Tim Walz (D-MN) as cosponsors of the legislation.

A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Davis stated in a press release, “Those who make great personal sacrifices in service to our country should not have to struggle to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families. Unfortunately, an unintended policy barrier prevents military families struggling with food insecurity from getting help from available federal nutrition assistance programs. This is a simple, common sense solution to ensuring that we properly care for our men and women in uniform and their families.”

According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, one in five of the households served by their networks has at least one member that has ever served in the military. Making it easier for military members to access CalFresh provides a reliable source for nutritious food and a greater sense of dignity by allowing enrolled families to shop for food at grocery stories instead of standing in line at emergency food service providers such as food banks or charity pantries on or near their military base.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition endorses the Military Prevention Act and the Hunger Advocacy Network will be tracking this bill this year. We’ll keep you updated on its progress. You can do your part to remove this barrier to food assistance for military families by making your voice heard. Sign our petition to tell Congress military families facing hunger is unacceptable! Sign the petition here.

#MythbusterMonday - March 2017 Myths Busted

We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series overturns misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.  

What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.

In March we busted the following hunger myths:

March 6

#MythbusterMonday "No one can be hungry AND overweight.” False! People living in poverty can’t afford enough food and what they can afford – or what is available in their community – is often unhealthy and processed. See #4.

March 13

#MythbusterMonday "People don’t have enough food because they’re not working.” False! In San Diego County 53% of food insecure adults are employed, with nearly 43% working full-time (defined as 21+ hours/week) Learn more.

March 20

#MythbusterMonday "People receiving emergency food assistance need help because they have too many kids.” False! Most families seeking food assistance consist of 2-3 people, a mom and 1-2 of her kids. Only 3% of households on food assistance have more than 6 members. See #3

March 27

#MythbusterMonday “Federal child nutrition programs & CalFresh drain the system.” False! Youth who have access to food assistance in early childhood have better health outcomes as adults and are more likely be successful in school and employment.

Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter - @SDHungerCo. 

CalFresh Alumni Project - Tekara's Story

Our CalFresh Alumni project champions successful Americans who once received CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) but who are now independent, contributing members of our community, as well as individuals who currently rely on the program during a time of need.  With a temporary lift from this government program that continues to help feed millions of Americans every day, these people are persevering and accomplishing great things. They make San Diego stronger every day.  Read their stories; tell us yours.

Meet Tekara Gainey. Tekara works in community engagement and public affairs for a San Diego nonprofit organization. Tekara shares her experience as a CalFresh/SNAP recipient and how it supported her journey to become the successful, independent woman she is today.

Tekara Gainey

Tekara Gainey

At what point in your life did you receive CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) and why?

I’ve received SNAP at various junctures throughout my life. My earliest memory of SNAP is as a young kid growing up in a single-family household. I later relied on SNAP when I was putting myself through college, both in pursuit of my Bachelors as well as my Masters degrees.

How long were you on CalFresh/SNAP?

In total, I was on CalFresh/SNAP for 7 years.

How did CalFresh/SNAP help you in your time of need?

My mother was working full time and we relied on SNAP to help put food on our table. This was back when SNAP was issued as vouchers. I remember going to the corner store and using our vouchers to purchase basic food items like milk, eggs, and bread. As a student, SNAP helped to alleviate some of the burden associated with working, attending school and paying bills.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

Relieved. I was already under an immense amount of stress working and going to school full time, barely able to afford rent, transportation, books, phone bill…the list goes on. Knowing that my capability of putting good, healthy food on the table was not compromised offered a lot of relief. I didn’t have to choose between eating lunch or eating dinner. I could do both. It was one less thing, on a list of many things, I had to worry about.

What are some common misconceptions you have heard people use about CalFresh/SNAP?

I've heard many people claim CalFresh/SNAP is only available to families (adults with young children), persons who are unemployed or homeless individuals. I’ve also heard people say CalFresh/SNAP couldn’t or shouldn’t be used at well-known grocery stores such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods. When speaking about people receiving CalFresh/SNAP, I’ve heard people claim recipients are abusing the system, lack the drive and will to get off SNAP, and are underserving of nice things (i.e., bags, shoes, clothes, etc.). An acquaintance once told me she was surprised to learn I was receiving SNAP benefits because I seemed so “put together”. I guess I wasn’t supposed to comb my hair that day!

What are you most proud of in your life? Or what are your dreams for the future?

I am proud of the life I’ve created for myself. I live in a beautiful city, have a wonderful, supportive, and strong groups of friends and family, and I am doing work that I am passionate about and that is making an impact.  

What do you want people to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP?

Food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP give people control over their lives and choices. During my time of need, prior to receiving food assistance, my choices were often made for me, based on my circumstances. Deciding whether I should spend $50 to purchase a work uniform or put aside money for lunch for the week was a no-brainer. If I wanted a job, I needed the uniform. Going 8-10 hours without eating because I couldn’t afford breakfast AND lunch was not my choice, but rather my circumstance. CalFresh/SNAP made me the ultimate decision maker again, just as it does with others.

Our CalFresh Alumni Project features individuals who have used CalFresh in the past or are currently enrolled in the program and using it as temporary assistance to get ahead during a time of need. CalFresh is California's version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and is our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. By telling the stories of those who have benefited from SNAP/CalFresh, we can more effectively raise awareness and advocate to maintain this vital program.

If you would like to take part in our CalFresh Alumni Project and share your experience with CalFresh/SNAP, contact Liz Faris at liz@sdhunger.org or 619-501-7917 ext. 106. Your story will be shared on our blog, in our newsletter, on our social media sites, and in communications with elected officials who have the power to preserve this important program. If you prefer, you may remain anonymous. Your story will still have a big impact!

Calling all Craft Breweries! Partner with us on the 2017 CalFresh Challenge.

The San Diego craft brewing community is known for its enthusiasm for supporting good causes and giving culture. This is why we are seeking to partner with local breweries on our 2017 CalFresh Challenge. 

According to our analysis, more than 485,000 people in San Diego County don’t always have enough to eat. That’s one in six of our neighbors, loved ones and friends who don’t have access to enough food for an active healthy life.  Each year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition holds its CalFresh Challenge as a way to raise awareness and money to fight hunger in our community. CalFresh is our state’s version of the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. For one work week, we encourage people who don’t have to worry about not having enough food to try living on a food stamps budget. In San Diego County, the average CalFresh budget for one person is $4.18 per day or $20.92 for five days.

This year the CalFresh Challenge will be held May 8 -12 during CalFresh Awareness Month. We are looking for partners in the craft brewing industry to help us make this the best challenge to date. Here are some ways you can participate: 

• Use craft beer to carry the message.
The average pint of craft beer in San Diego costs around $6, about $1.73 more than the daily $4.27 CalFresh allotment per person. We are looking for a local brewery to brew an original CalFresh beer for the month of May and sell it for $4.27, or offer this special price on an existing beer during the month to benefit the San Diego Hunger Coalition. This way customers can see what they spend on a pour of their favorite craft beer is more than the meager government supplement some people receive to help put food on their tables.

• Provide a donation for our CalFresh Challenge event.
As an incentive for people to participate in the challenge we will hold a post-challenge event. The event is an opportunity to celebrate those who completed the challenge, recognize the top challenge fundraisers, and bring people together to have fun for a good cause. We are seeking donations to give as prizes to our top fundraisers and to raffle off at our post-challenge event. We'll accept gift certificates, merchandise, and any other goodies you are able to give.

• Participate in the Challenge yourself and share your experience.
We are always looking for new people to take the CalFresh Challenge, especially those with large followings who can help extend the reach of our message to end hunger in San Diego County.

As a partner in the 2017 CalFresh Challenge, we can provide your brewery with the following. We are also open to discussing any additional ideas you have.

• Handouts, menu inserts and pre-written social media posts for you to use to promote your brewery’s participation in the challenge.
• Promotion of the brewery and CalFresh beer on our social media accounts and blog.
• Recognition of the brewery in any media releases issued about the challenge and inclusion of the brewery’s logo on all CalFresh Challenge digital and printed materials.
• A shout out for your brewery during the post-challenge event.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is a non-profit 501 (c)(3) organization. All donations are tax-deductible. Our federal tax ID# is 30-0507718.

If your brewery is interested in joining as a partner in the 2017 CalFresh Challenge, please contact Liz Faris at liz@sdhunger.org or (619) 501-7917 ext. 106. 

Help Protect SNAP by Sharing Your Story!

Many of us have overcome barriers to get to where we are today, and this may have included not having enough food in the house. If you or your family ever received food stamps/SNAP (known as CalFresh in California), the San Diego Hunger Coalition wants to share your story to help make sure this vital program remains available for others during their times of need. The San Diego Hunger Coalition is a nonprofit that brings organizations across San Diego County together in the fight against hunger. We lead coordinated action supported by research, education and advocacy.

Former SNAP/CalFresh recipients include representatives in Congress, famous celebrities, professional athletes, CEO’s and community leaders at all levels. By telling the stories of those who have benefited from SNAP/CalFresh, we can more effectively raise awareness and advocate for important policies to end hunger.

SNAP is our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. Locally, the majority of people receiving CalFresh get the temporary help they need and are on it for less than two years. An important part of the Hunger Coalition’s work includes reducing the myths and stigma around SNAP/CalFresh. These misconceptions affect policy, funding, how food assistance programs are administered, and whether people feel comfortable seeking the resources they need to help their families.

We make it easy for you to help change this by sharing your story as part of our CalFresh Alumni project.  We will send you a few interview questions you can respond to by email, over the phone or in person. We then write a brief blog post about your experience that will be shared on our website, newsletter, social media, and in communication with elected officials who have the power to preserve this important program. If you prefer, you can remain anonymous. Your story will still have a big impact!

If you are interested in sharing a little bit about how food stamps provided a bridge to where you are today, please contact the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s Communications Officer Liz Faris directly at liz@sdhunger.org or (619) 501-7917 ext. 106.

Become an Activist for a Hunger Free San Diego – and Help Put Food on the Table

We are building on the Hunger Advocacy Network's four major policy victories from last year. In 2017, we’re providing more opportunities for you to join us. We invite all members of our community to participate in large-scale systems change to improve food assistance. 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
— Margaret Mead

We are calling on you become an Activist for a Hunger Free San Diego. Sign up for email action alerts to stay up-to-date about how to strengthen access to food resources. As a Hunger Free Activist, you will:

  • Stay up-to-date on issues of importance to our community
  • Receive a variety of options for participation so you can decide your level of engagement.
  • Access the information and tools you need to be effective – from specialized advocacy training to talking points.
  • Enjoy privacy. We will not share your name or information with anyone outside our organization without specifically asking for permission.

Your voice can make a real difference in the lives of everyday San Diegans struggling to feed their families. Please sign up here today. Then share that you are a Hunger Free Activist on social media. (Facebook / Twitter

Food Security & Healthcare Convening

SDHC Healthcare Forum2.jpg

We're pioneering new ways for people to access CalFresh assistance - through their healthcare providers. On December 14th, more than 50 healthcare and food security stakeholders from across San Diego County gathered at the Price Charities Center to discuss best practices for screening and addressing food insecurity in patients.

Public Health Institute’s Holly Calhoun keynoted the Integrating Food Security into Healthcare Settings forum. She opened the session by illustrating the national landscape of innovative work already being done across the US.

Featured panelists from UCSD School of Medicine, Family Health Centers San Diego, Sharp Healthcare, Feeding San Diego, and 211 San Diego continued the conversation by describing their local efforts to identify and connect food insecure patients to CalFresh and food assistance. They highlighted how a provider's unique relationship with patients can ensure wellness through traditional healthcare as well as access to healthy food.

Forum participants were enthusiastic about the pilot programs' results. Many discussed how to strengthen evaluation measures to continue to capture data and learn from one another. Multiple healthcare organizations expressed interest in engaging in this work. See photos from the event here and read our research report, Launching Rx for CalFresh in San Diego County: Integrating Food Security in Healthcare Settings.

We look forward to continuing the conversation and collaborative work in 2017!

Nine ways we're breaking down barriers to CalFresh

A Year in Review: Changing Lives with CalFresh

As we look back on the past year, we’re motivated by everything we and our partners accomplished together to help our fellow San Diego residents access the food assistance they need.

Now, we’re sharing our favorite 2016 wins with you. Thanks to your support, we:

  1. Led San Diego County to integrate food security resources like CalFresh into healthcare settings with Rx for CalFresh.
  2. Trained 383 staff, volunteers and interns to provide CalFresh application assistance at 25 partner agencies across San Diego County.
  3. Worked with CalFresh application assistance partners to help more than 10,000 households access nearly $17 million worth of food.
  4. Helped more than 200 people access food assistance by resolving technical issues with their CalFresh applications.
  5. Promoted CalFresh application assistance to college students through successful legislation (AB 1747 Weber).
  6. Connected community college students with CalFresh applications assistance through five new partnerships.
  7. Collaborated with senior-serving community organizations to engage more seniors in accessing CalFresh.
  8. Streamlined the CalFresh application process by working with the County Health and Human Services Agency to expand programs like Same Day Service across the county.
  9. Directed more than $200,000 to local nonprofits helping low-income individuals and families apply for CalFresh, as a contractor for the state CalFresh Outreach Program.

In 2017, it’s clear we have our work cut out for us. Our partners on the ground know how great the need for food assistance is, but the next administration has set its sights on dismantling and weakening programs like CalFresh. It will take all of us, raising our voices and telling our stories, to build on the progress we have made together.

We’re thankful for your contributions to make sure no one in San Diego County has to go hungry. This year, we look forward to working with you to continue making these stories heard

Bringing Breakfast to the Classroom

School Breakfast.png

All children deserve access to school breakfast to support their learning. Decades of research prove that school breakfast greatly improves academic performance and student behavior.
However, more than 60% of low-income students in California do not eat a regular breakfast, which limits their ability to succeed in school.

In October 2016, Escondido Union School District (EUSD) made a move to change that statistic by rolling out Breakfast in the Classroom at Felicita Elementary School. EUSD plans to expand to more elementary schools in coming years.

Already, daily student participation in the breakfast program has increased by 60%. Now, 465 students, which is close to seven out of ten at the school, enjoy free breakfast each morning and teachers tell us it’s a great way to begin the school day.

Thanks to the work of California Food Policy Advocates, San Diego Hunger Coalition, and other anti-hunger organizations statewide, an additional $2 million in the California state budget will enable public schools to start or expand after-the-bell breakfast programs.

San Diego Hunger Coalition’s Robin McNulty provided testimony to advocate for expanding Breakfast After the Bell statewide and has written a case study on the program’s past success at Lemon Grove Elementary School. This proven impact helped encourage Escondido to roll out breakfast in the classroom.

Breakfast After the Bell models see a substantial increase in student attendance, positive academic performance, less student tardiness and visits to the health office.

The state government will provide grants of up to $15,000 per school site, with priority given to high poverty schools. This funding is a huge win for ending hunger in the classroom.

For more information on these state funded grants click here or contact Robin McNulty.

New Health Permit Regulations for Meal Sites: What to Know

Photo: "Playground" by dadblunders is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Photo: "Playground" by dadblunders is licensed under CC BY 2.0

After-school meal programs help ensure kids have adequate energy for homework and active play—and that they won’t go to bed hungry. 

Over the past year, several of our partner organizations struggled to adjust to new health permit regulations and fees, and it has been a barrier to providing meals for kids who need them. 

As we enter 2017, here’s what you need to know to comply with new permitting policies from California’s Department of Education.

  1. Make sure your permits are up-to-date
    To update your health/sanitation and fire/building safety permits, your organization must submit a current permit or a satisfactory report from a recent inspection.
  2. Stay tuned for updated program guidelines
    The California Department of Education is creating a Management Bulletin for program sponsors and health departments to properly administer at-risk meal programs.
  3. You may have to adjust the types of meals you serve  
    Many of our partners have been required to switch to serving pre-packaged, nonperishable foods if they don’t have a commercial-style kitchen to serve hot foods.
  4. Take another look at your budget
    Along with updated regulations come annual permit fees of $200/permit and inspection fees of $284/visit, which place an additional financial burden on anti-hunger organizations. Be sure to factor these new fees into your 2017 budget.

These new changes are part of the 2010 Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which aims to simplify the transition for providers from summer food service programs to afterschool meals while school is in session. Still, the financial burden from the new permitting and inspection process can make it more difficult for service providers to accomplish their purpose – offering nutritious meals for children at risk of hunger.

Click here for more information to make sure your organization is in compliance with these updated policies, or contact Robin McNulty at robin@sdhunger.org or 619-501-7917.