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.