Meet Alyssa Earley. Alyssa supported herself with CalFresh during a busy year in college when she was stretched thin between being a full-time student, doing an unpaid internship and working part-time. Today, Alyssa is independent and thriving as the Senior Development Associate for a private wealth management company.
At what point in your life did you receive CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) and why?
I received CalFresh for about a year in college, around 2012/2013. While a full-time
student at Mesa College (where my family’s income qualified me for a tuition waiver and I
received federal student aid for living expenses), I also worked at a catering company on
weekends and an unpaid internship during the week. I applied for CalFresh after I noticed
my incredible focus on frugality with food and how I might stretch meals throughout the
week by cutting portions in half or waiting longer until I ate. This affected my ability to
pay attention in class and while studying. As someone who was working directly with
CalFresh recipients and communicating guidelines, I realized that I probably qualified and
could greatly benefit from the program myself. Additionally, I was a big fan of the Fresh
Fund, which allowed CalFresh recipients to go to a participating farmer’s market, swipe
their EBT card for up to $20, and receive double their money’s worth of tokens to spend
buying fruits and vegetables in the market.
How long were you/have you been on CalFresh?
About a year.
How did CalFresh/SNAP help you in your time of need?
I felt relieved when I had CalFresh, knowing I didn’t have to spend precious time
contemplating a meal purchase or choosing a cheaper, unhealthier option that I didn’t
really want. I was able to maintain a healthy diet that contributed to my overall wellbeing
and success as a student.
How did receiving food assistance make you feel?
I was relieved but also felt a bit embarrassed. I was always on guard when checking out at
the grocery store and felt like the cashier might be scrutinizing my purchases or someone
in line would notice my EBT card wasn’t a regular debit card. I was very sensitive towards
any negative comments or stereotypes regarding people on food assistance as well.
How would you make ends meet without CalFresh?
Cutting meals in half and saving for later or waiting longer between meals. Eating
something like an oatmeal packet for lunch rather than a full meal.
Have you (or did you) use any food assistance programs in addition to CalFresh (i.e. pantries,
meal delivery services, etc.)?
I did not but I was incredibly resourceful in finding events on campus that offered free food :)
What are you most proud of in your life? Or what are your dreams for the future?
I hope to get to a place in my life where I can make sustained financial contributions to
the programs making a meaningful impact in people’s lives and furthering comprehensive
human rights. I feel so gratefully indebted to those that have paved the way for me to
pursue my passions and live a healthful life; I want to help others “stand on the shoulders
of giants” and move upward.
What do you want people to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh?
I’d like people to know that CalFresh/SNAP is an investment, with $1 spent in SNAP
generating $1.79 in economic activity. And that you have no idea the type of perspective
that hunger creates in a person until you’ve experienced it yourself. All legislators and
citizens should spend a week trying to eat on the average CalFresh allotment per person (that's $4.18/day in San Diego County in 2017) and see the incredible impact
that even short-term hunger has on one’s ability to focus, retain information, and your
health. Hunger can be all consuming in a person’s life and yet it is entirely preventable. I
hope more people reflect on their attitude towards hunger and programs like CalFresh,
realizing the positive ripple effect this safety net has on their community, economy, and
society as a whole.