Willa's Story

Meet Willa Nesheim. Willa relied on SNAP (known locally as CalFresh) and other food assistance resources like food banks as a child. Her parents worked low-wage jobs and SNAP/CalFresh provided critical support during a 5-month period when her mother was laid off and looking for work. Because of this support she was able to go on to break the cycle of poverty in her own life and for her daughter. As an adult, she worked for 32-years in long-term in-home care for the elderly and disabled where she again saw how vital food assistance was to the health and well-being of her clients.

 Willa Nesheim

Willa Nesheim

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

I was probably in the 6th or 7th grade. My mother had lost her job at Boeing. We went on food stamps and possibly also public assistance. This was in the 1960’s. It was just my mother and me receiving assistance.

How long were you/have you been on SNAP/CalFresh?

We were probably on food stamps for about 5 months or so until my mother found a job.

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

It helped. That was the only income my mother had coming in, so the food stamps were a good thing. I remember her being embarrassed because my mom was always someone who had worked. We didn’t have a vehicle so we had to walk with a cart to get food. I remember we went to a different store than we normally did. I remember it being very difficult. Things were very tight.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

I knew something was different. My mom was embarrassed, so then I felt the same way she did. I didn’t say anything to anyone. Things had changed when we moved to Ballard, WA and my mother was working at Boeing. Things were going better for us, but then when she lost that job and things got harder. I’m sure it was stressful for her to pay the rent while trying to find another job. I remember babysitting and giving her some money to help pay the light bill. She did get her job back and things got back on track for the both of us.

How would you have (or did you) made ends meet without SNAP/CalFresh?

It would have been really difficult. I don’t know what we would have done. It would have been so hard. We barely had enough to get by on with the food stamps. After the unemployment ran out, I think we were on public assistance for a little while until my mom could get a job again. It was really hard.

Did you use any food assistance programs in addition to SNAP/CalFresh (i.e. free or reduced priced school meals, pantries, meal delivery services, etc.)? What was that like?

I also went to the food bank. That was when I was very little. I was probably in the first grade. I went with my father. We didn’t have a vehicle and we had to transfer on the bus several times to get to this warehouse. After we got off the bus we still had quite a way to walk. On the way back, we had to carry as much food as we could. We had to hurry to get back to catch the bus because of the different transfers we had to make. I remember getting canned meat from the food bank, it was very salty and not very appetizing, but I liked it because I was hungry.

I don’t think my school had free or reduced-priced meals yet. I remember many mornings where I didn’t have breakfast. I would go to school and there was no lunch offered. One time a teacher saw that I wasn’t eating lunch and she brought me a carton of milk. You just kind of blended in with the other kids. You didn’t tell people that you didn’t have breakfast. There weren’t things like that for children at school at that time.

What are you most proud of in your life?

I saw how hard it was for my mother. She worked just about every day of her life and never made much money. I saw how difficult it was for her and I didn’t want that for my life. I wanted something different for my life than what I was born into. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to break that cycle. I’m really proud of my daughter Theranne. It was very important to her father and I that she had an education because we didn’t have that. Both her father and I are very proud of who she is and the education she has received. She is a teacher and she has a Master’s Degree. Her father came from poverty too and we both broke that cycle. We’re very proud of that.

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

It helps families so much, especially the children. They are born into this, it’s out of their control. It’s so important for children to have breakfast. It’s not fun trying to go to school when you are hungry and your stomach is growling all morning. These programs are very important for children and families. My mother was able to get food stamps and financial assistance to support us so she could get her job back. I don’t know what we would have done without that help.  It takes some of the stress off, not having to worry as much about being able to feed your children. These programs are very important.

Anything else you would like to add?

During my work providing long-term in-home care for 32 years, I probably took care of the poorest of the poor - the elderly and disabled. The small amount of food stamps they get gives them just a little more of the food that they need. They use the food banks too. I’ve searched for food banks for my clients. I’ve volunteered at food banks. These clients just don’t have enough to eat. It’s very challenging for them. I have wracked my brain trying to figure out things to cook for them that will stretch their food budget. Without SNAP, it would be so difficult for them. They are already living in poverty and to take that support away is a real threat. Many of the clients I worked with, worked most of their lives but never made that much money so their social security or whatever they have coming in is very little. You need food stamps and food banks, they are so important for people. They deal with all their disabilities every day and on top of that, they also have to worry about food. In 32 years, I haven’t seen things change. I know my former clients still are worried about their food stamps being taken away. It shouldn’t be like that, because they have contributed. That’s not right.

Edward's Story

Home Start receives training and funding from San Diego Hunger Coalition to support its work to connect people in need to CalFresh food assistance. They partner with the San Diego State University Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs to provide CalFresh application assistance to food insecure students. Below is a story about one of their clients.

Meet Edward Yannaccone. Edward is relying on CalFresh while pursuing a degree at San Diego State University. CalFresh supplements his income so that he can use his financial aid to pay for things that support his education, like books and transportation to and from class, rather than groceries Having CalFresh reduces his stress and helps him maintain the focus and energy he needs to complete his dream of graduating from college. 

 Edward Yannaccone

Edward Yannaccone

When did you start receiving CalFresh?

My first semester at SDSU was fall of 2017 and I joined the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs and they had let us know that CalFresh was available to eligible students, so I applied and I was able to receive CalFresh. I've been on CalFresh for about five or six months.

How did CalFresh help you in your time of need?

I have a significant amount of student loans. I haven't worked since I started taking school seriously and I was in desperate need of any help I could get, financially or in any other way possible from any organization that was willing to help me. CalFresh has made buying groceries on a fairly regular basis significantly easier. It allows my food problems, for the most part, to be helped – because I don’t eat that much and the amount awarded is usually enough for me to live, month-to-month, without having to worry about starving or going to some more extreme measures.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

Good! I was super, super excited about it. My girlfriend and I both got accepted. It was great. It was one more thing I did not have to worry about so that I can focus on school. I’m 30 years old – so I’m a little late to the game. Getting approved for CalFresh was a huge deal to me.

How would you make ends meet without CalFresh?

Badly! I get student aid from the federal government and a little bit of state money, but really, I live very frugally. My life consists of mostly just going to school. The money that is given to me is used for books and stuff for school, such as transportation. CalFresh helped ease the food burden. I rent out a room out of a small, old house.  I don’t have a whole lot of extra money at the end of the month. I was living month-to-month. CalFresh makes it a lot easier so I don’t have to continue putting myself in credit card debt.

What do you think some common misconceptions people have about CalFresh are?

I think one of the misconceptions is that it’s wrong to ask the government for help. I’m hoping that one day I’ll graduate and have the kind of money to give back what I received. Some people are really stubborn – they don’t want to have other people help them. But, I see it as I’m going to borrow for now, but one day I am going to give back and I am looking forward to that day. I look at it in a more positive light.

What are you most proud of in your life and what are your hopes for the future?

To be honest with you, I graduated high school in a charter school. I didn’t think I was ever going to go to college. I definitely didn’t think I would go to San Diego State. This is probably my proudest moment – right here – that I am in this school. Because up until to this point, I didn’t think I would be doing anything with my life. This is my one chance – I’m looking forward to doing something with it.

What do you want elected officials to know about food assistance like CalFresh?

It’s a great program. If you are eligible, I recommend getting help. The staff at the Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs have been so helpful and Home Start has been so great, the whole program has been great. There are so many different businesses that work with you. It has made my life so much easier so that I don’t have to struggle. I’m going to have eggs, milk, and that kind of thing – CalFresh is so great. It’s just awesome. It's helping me out during a really hard time and I really appreciate it.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Vivian's Story

Home Start receives training and funding from San Diego Hunger Coalition to support its work to connect people in need to CalFresh food assistance. They partner with the San Diego State University Office of Educational Opportunity Programs and Ethnic Affairs to provide CalFresh application assistance to food insecure students. Below is a story about one of their clients.

Meet Vivian Gomez. Vivan is relying on CalFresh while pursuing a degree at San Diego State University. CalFresh helps supplement her limited income so she doesn't have to dip into her financial aid to pay for the healthy food she needs to fuel her studies and graduate.

 Vivian Gomez

Vivian Gomez

At what point in your life did you start receiving CalFresh?

I started receiving CalFresh during my first semester – in August, 2017.

How is CalFresh helping you?

I’m a student and my parents aren’t the wealthiest, so I’ve always had to support myself and I'm trying my best getting through college. CalFresh has really helped me not have to worry about groceries, food, or going hungry.

How did it make you feel?

Relieved! As I said before, I don't have to worry about going hungry or opening the refrigerator and seeing it completely being barren, except maybe a box of baking soda.

How would you make ends meet without CalFresh?

I would have to dip into financial aid and my student loans to help pay for food because I don’t have much parental assistance. 

What are some common misconceptions that you’ve heard about CalFresh?

I think one of the most common misconceptions is that CalFresh is an abused welfare program. People think that people on CalFresh are, “just low-lives,” “they don’t do anything,” “they’re good-for-nothing.” But the reality is that CalFresh is there to help people who need it – starving students, mothers, etc.

What are you most proud of in your life and what are your hopes for the future?

I’m probably most proud of the fact that I’m in college at SDSU. I’m first-generation American. My parents are from Guatemala. I’m just here trying to make them proud.

What do you want elected officials to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh?

They should know that it’s great. It’s incredibly helpful. If you’re out there worrying about money, worrying about food – it’s a really hard position to be in – especially in college where you also have to focus on school and grades and completing homework assignments and projects. I think it’s a really important program to help students like me.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Vanessa's Story

Meet Vanessa Loucky. Vanessa is working internationally on a personal research project on intentional mindfulness-based communities and has been volunteering with refugees in Greece for more than three months. She relied on CalFresh/SNAP at two points in her life to support her health, the financial well being of her family, and her ability to find meaningful employment. 

 VANESSA LOUCKY

VANESSA LOUCKY

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

I received food stamps at two different periods in my life. The first time was while I was serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer then leader for two years. The second time was after I moved back to the United States after living in Thailand where I was volunteering and working for a foundation providing basic needs to people in the region. During the nearly three years I lived in Thailand, I had been working very hard for very little income and came home with volunteer burnout and some health challenges. I applied for the program to help subsidize my limited resources while I recovered physically and emotionally, and so I didn’t put an additional financial strain on my family.

How long were you/have you been on CalFresh?

I was on food stamps for 2 years during my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA and another year and a half during my transition from working in Thailand.

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

Being on food assistance was an enormous help to me. I sometimes don’t know how to express what it has meant to me or how grateful I am to have used it. These were times when I had very limited resources/income after college and during my service to America in the AmeriCorps program and later after pursuing service and volunteerism abroad in Thailand. During these two separate periods in my life, food stamps allowed me to pursue service-based outreach, volunteerism and to do an unpaid internship in my field of interest to gain more experience and skills. I would have had more personal challenges, stress and anxiety related to my food needs had I not received this critical assistance.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

I often felt guilty that I should not be receiving this assistance or that I wasn’t ‘poor’ enough or in enough ‘need’ to receive it. I also felt bad at times for receiving this kind of assistance, like I didn’t deserve it. I remember having a conversation with my Mom about this. She explained that I had put lots of my own hard earned money towards this kind of assistance when I worked and paid taxes for so many years during and after college and that it was absolutely okay to use something I had helped contribute to in a time of need.

How would you have (or did you) made ends meet without CalFresh?

I would not have been as nutritionally nourished as I was without food stamps. I would have had to dip more into my extremely limited savings. I may have also had to ask my parents or other family members for support which would have been difficult or put a strain on our relationship. I also would have made use of food bank programs or other meal services available.

Did you use any other food assistance programs in addition to CalFresh (i.e. free or reduced priced school meals, pantries, meal delivery services, etc.)?

I went to food banks a lot.

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

I’m most proud of pursuing the subjects I really wanted to in college rather than just getting a degree that that looked good on paper. I studied the things I felt most passionate about and I’m really proud of myself for that.

I am also so proud of myself for pursuing my own personal healing, growth and development throughout my post-college life including various counseling and other healing modalities.

My dreams for the future are to live in a more self-sufficient mindfulness based community that has community service and outreach as a core value and practice. I also dream to live in a place where I can grow some of my own produce.

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

I would like people to know what a tremendous help this program can be for so many people at different stages in their life and to trust that for so many people this can be a stepping-stone to help people find their way or next opportunity or chapter in their lives. I wholeheartedly believe that food should be viewed as a basic human right where every person should have access to healthy and nutritious food and shouldn’t be limited to people based on income or citizenship or qualified need.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Samantha's Story

Meet Samantha Hua. Samantha received CalFresh/SNAP after coming to the United States with her family as refugees. CalFresh/SNAP supplemented her family's limited income and helped her access the nutrition she needed to grow, develop, and learn. CalFresh/SNAP set Samantha on the path to success. She went on to start her own business, Happy Food, where she works today as CEO and Holistic Health Coach. 

 SAMANTHA HUA

SAMANTHA HUA

 

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

I was on it as a child. I lived with my guardians and we were refugees with nothing so any support was welcomed.

How long were you on CalFresh?

Since my grandparents were retired and my parents weren’t around. I believe I was on it my entire childhood. 

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

I was a child so it was essential to get some good nutrients. My grandparents didn’t work, but my extended family worked extremely hard to survive and save in hopes of creating opportunities for the next generation after giving up everything to leave a war-torn country.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

I think everyone has pride and would rather not be on public support, but we were grateful that there was such a program to help us survive and get through tough times. 

How did you make ends meet without CalFresh?

It definitely helped.  My extended family was already working as much as they could to make ends meet. I come from a family of extremely hard workers (maybe too hard). The extra support made it more tolerable.

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

I’m proud of being the first in my family to go to college and serving a 2-year term in the Peace Corps in Niger, West Africa. I went on to promote wildlife conservation nationally and internationally through my biology degree. Afterwards, I started my own business, Happy Food. 

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

Kids cannot thrive without food. There’s no argument there. Sometimes, life throws curve balls and when we support our fellow brothers and sisters, we thrive as a society. I am very proud of my contributions to this country and planet. Giving back and contributing is the core of who I am. 


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Sherry's Story

Meet Sherry Guia. Sherry relied on CalFresh when she was pregnant and pursuing a degree at San Diego State University. Her support system was lacking, her employer was demanding, and her work schedule was not compatible with her school schedule. CalFresh allowed her to focus on her education, pregnancy, and work, without having the stress of being able to afford a healthy diet. In May, Sherry completed her Bachelor’s degree in public health. Today, she is working as a Wellness Specialist at the University of California, San Diego-Center for Community Health.

 SHERRY GUIA

SHERRY GUIA

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

I decided to apply for CalFresh in September of 2014, when I found out that I pregnant. I was in my fourth year at San Diego State University and my support system was severely lacking. I had recently resigned from a job because it was costing me more to travel back and forth to it than what I was getting paid, and my employer wanted me to attend school when it was convenient for his schedule.

How long were you/have you been on CalFresh?

I was on CalFresh for a total of two and a half years.

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

This time of my life was difficult. I took a semester off from school and had to find new employment. This did not affect my CalFresh benefits because my income was not substantial and barely covered my rent, and other bills. I did return to school the next semester to finish off the academic year. CalFresh allowed me to focus on my education, pregnancy, and work, without having the stress of being able to afford a healthy diet. 

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

I felt relieved. I was under a lot of pressure being pregnant, a full-time student, and working 30+ hours a week. Knowing that on CalFresh I could eat healthy food for myself and the growing life inside of me gave me peace of mind and allowed me to better focus on my studies.

How would you make ends meet without CalFresh?

If it weren’t for CalFresh, I would have had to take out multiple loans. I might have stopped going to school and picked up a full-time job to try and make ends meet for myself and my son.

Did you use any food assistance programs in addition to CalFresh (i.e. pantries, meal delivery services, etc.)?

I did receive WIC for myself when I was pregnant and up until my son was one year old.

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

I am proud of the life that I have been able to create for myself. I am grateful that I have graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health and that I am currently working in a field where I help members of my community to better their lives. I want to show my son you can achieve what you want in life, even if you need help along the way.

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

I want people to know that they have the power to improve their lives by eliminating barriers and sacrifices. They can take back control of their lives through CalFresh. They should not have to decide between being able to pay the bills or having enough money to purchase groceries. A person never knows what curve balls life can throw at them or someone they may know. They may need CalFresh one day and it is vital that they know they can have access to such a resource. CalFresh has helped me and my son and is helping better the lives of many.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Emilio's Story

Home Start receives training and funding from San Diego Hunger Coalition to support its work to connect people in need to CalFresh food assistance. Below is a story about one of their clients.

Meet Emilio. Emilo was diagnosed with a medical condition that required him to change his diet. Thanks to Home Start, he was able to enroll in CalFresh and access healthier food. Unfortunately, earlier this year Emilio had to leave his job and the county for a period due to a death in the family. When he returned, he discovered that his benefit amount had been reduced due to incorrect calculation. The San Diego Hunger Coalition helped him to reinstate the original benefit he was eligible for so he can continue to remain independent. Emilio looks forward to getting his good health back thanks to CalFresh and one day hopes to see his grandchildren attend college.

 EMILIO

EMILIO

Why did you apply for CalFresh? / ¿Por qué aplico para CalFresh?

Porque lo necesito. No quería aplicar, especialmente con lo del Donald Trump. No quería que me quitaran la residencia pero lo necesitó [CalFresh].

I need it. I didn’t really want to apply, especially with all that’s going on with Donald Trump. I don’t want them to take my residency but I need it [CalFresh].

How did CalFresh/SNAP help you in your time of need? / ¿Cómo le ha ayudado aplicar a CalFresh/estampillas de comida cuando lo necesita?

Si ayuda bastantemente. No es mucho, pero si ayuda. Recientemente tuve un problema médico y he tenido que cambiar mi dieta. CalFresh me ayudado porque la verdad, cuesta mucho las verduras y la comida. El programa [de CalFresh] es excelente. Antes tenía dieta muy loca, mucho McDonald’s y Subway pero con CalFresh es más fácil comer bien.

It really does help. It’s not a lot but it helps. Recently I had a medical issue and I’ve had to change my diet. CalFresh helps because eating healthy and buying vegetables is expensive. The CalFresh program is excellent. Before, my diet consisted of McDonalds and Subway but with CalFresh it’s easier to eat healthy.

How does receiving food assistance make you feel? / ¿Cómo se siente recibiendo beneficios?

Muy agradecido. Bueno, con la reducción, no tan agradecido. Con $194 si me alcanza pero con $112 voy a tener que ver qué soluciones hacemos. Ojala podemos ver cómo arreglar eso.

I’m very grateful, but really need to re-adjust my benefit amount now that I am not working. With $194, I could afford food but with only $112 I’m going to have to figure something out. Hopefully we can fix the reduction. (Note: San Diego Hunger Coalition has helped Emilio to receive his original benefit amount.)

How would you make ends meet without CalFresh? / ¿Si usted no tuviera acceso a CalFresh, que tuviera que hacer?

Pues tuviera que depender de amigos. Nosotros abecés ayudamos y si no tuviera CalFresh, pues pidiera un préstamo o vendiera el carro. Cuando llegue aquí caminábamos a todos lados. Pero vamos a luchar. No somos conformistas.

I would have to depend on my friends. We sometimes help out our friends. If I didn’t have CalFresh, I would have to ask my friends for a loan or I would have to sell my car. When we moved here we used to walk everywhere. We keep fighting, we don’t conform.

What are you most proud of in your life? Or what are your dreams for the future?
¿De qué estás más orgulloso en tu vida? ¿Cuáles son sus sueños para el futuro?

Ahorita volver empezar. Quisiera que mis nietos vallan a la universidad. Me daría mucho orgullo dejar eso. Yo nunca viajo, no voy a bailes o conciertos. Yo trabajo y ahorro. Se acaba de fallecer mi mama y por eso tuve que salir del país. Mis hijos estudiaron en México pero quiero que los que nacieron aquí también estudien.

Right now, I have to start over. I would like for my grandchildren to go to college. I would be very proud to see that happen. I don’t travel, I don’t go out or go to concerts. I work and save. My mom just passed away and I had to leave the country. My children studied in Mexico and I would like my grandchildren who were born here to study as well.

What do you want people to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh? / ¿Que quisiera que la gente supiera acerca de los programas de asistencia como las estampillas de comida?

Me encargaron que les digiera a mis amigos del programa. Mucha gente si está interesada pero no sé si han aplicado. Yo conozco mucha gente que no ganan bien. Ellos trabajan pero ganan lo mínimo y aquí con la renta, está muy difícil.

Home Start told me to tell my friends about the program. A lot of people were interested. I know a lot of people who don’t make a lot. They work, but they get paid the minimum and here with the cost of rent, it’s very difficult.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Alyssa's Story

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. 

 ALYSSA EARLEY

ALYSSA EARLEY

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, $1 spent in SNAP
generates $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.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Bret's Story

Meet Bret Fisher. Bret has worked in horticulture most of his life, but is now disabled and relying on CalFresh to help put food on his table while he is unable to work. Once he is able to have surgery to relieve spinal pain, he plans to return to part-time work and practice the more creative aspects of horticulture. 

 Bret Fisher

Bret Fisher

At what point in your life did you receive CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) and why? Or if you are currently enrolled in CalFresh, why did you apply for the program?

When I was a kid, there were a couple of periods in which my father was between jobs and we needed the help of food stamps, and I also had a period during my twenties when my wife and I sought the help. But my recent application for CalFresh help is the first in quite a long time. I actually didn’t realize I was eligible for any help with it, but a couple of agencies I was speaking to about other issues brought up the possibility and suggested I look into it.  I’m on a very limited income and I struggle to eat well, and so I decided to apply.

How long were you/have you been on CalFresh?

My account with CalFresh just began- it was activated just a couple of days ago and I was able to buy some food with the EBT card. The San Diego Hunger Coalition was incredibly helpful to me! They did some advocacy work for me and kept in touch with me as I went along. I’m very grateful for the dedication they showed me in the application process.

How is CalFresh/SNAP helping you in your time of need?

In my own case, I don’t qualify for a high value in CalFresh benefits, but even the small amount of help I’m getting is very beneficial to me because I’m much more able to create a good diet. I do my own cooking and use a lot of raw food, since it’s both frugal and healthy. The benefits help very much, both in getting through financially and in giving me good options with my diet.

How did receiving food assistance make you feel?

Well, I’m sure I’m not alone in the idea that I’d much rather not have to seek aid. Not long ago I was working part-time and was happy to be much more self-sufficient. But having help like this is something I’m very grateful for, along with many other things in my life, in spite of my disability. I try to be charitable myself, and I believe in reciprocity and being generous to people, especially people who are having trouble getting by. I try very hard to give back.

How would you make ends meet without CalFresh?

In my case, CalFresh means I can eat a healthier diet. There have been many periods in which I was able to eat through the month by being very frugal, but my choices weren’t so healthy. CalFresh help means I have better quality in my diet, and I’m sure it will mean I’m going to enjoy better health.

Have you (or did you) use any food assistance programs in addition to CalFresh (i.e. pantries, meal delivery services, etc.)?

I have done that, yes.

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

I have need of surgery to relieve pain in my spine, and once I can arrange for that I hope to return to part time employment in horticulture, which is my occupation and my passion professionally. I’m at an age now where I’m due to transition away from manual labor toward more creative kinds of work in horticulture, such as designing or publishing. I have high hopes.

I know I’m not alone in facing certain painful challenges as life has gone along, and these things will test someone’s persistence and patience. I’m trying to bring the best of myself to these issues, and often I feel grateful that I’m able to grow through the difficulties and become a person I can admire. Poverty is tough. I try to face it squarely and keep a positive and grateful attitude. In the end, I believe that these difficulties have made me a more resilient and grounded person, and most importantly, I have empathy for others and love to live a life of helpfulness.

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

If you need the help of CalFresh, whether temporarily or over a long term, don’t feel badly about it. It exists for just such situations as you’re in, and it’s no shame to accept help. The agencies that administer CalFresh can be frustrating because of caseloads and such stuff, but be patient- it will work out. The San Diego Hunger Coalition is a fantastic example of an effective advocacy! They really do help you to negotiate in the situation and get access to the things you’re qualified for. And they’re terrific people, too! Very pleasant and professional.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply! 

Tekara's Story

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.


Do you know someone who needs access to CalFresh? 

Click here to find easy ways to apply!