Could you feed yourself on $4.38 per day?  We’re challenging you to try.


What is the CalFresh Challenge?

The CalFresh Challenge is an anti-hunger initiative which encourages participants to live on a CalFresh (aka food stamp) budget for a week and share their experiences with their peers. The CalFresh Challenge gives participants a view of what life can be like for millions of low-income Americans living on CalFresh/SNAP benefits, including over 450,000 San Diegans. The CalFresh (or SNAP) Challenge started in 2007 when four Members of Congress decided to live for one week on an average food stamp budget of several dollars a day. The Challenge, which takes place the week of September 21, aims to continue raising awareness and understanding around the challenges faced by millions of low-income Americans living on CalFresh/SNAP benefits. The Challenge gives participants a glimpse of what life is like when forced to make food shopping choices on a limited budget. It is also an opportunity to learn how difficult it is to avoid hunger, afford nutritious foods, and stay healthy with restricted resources. This year, the average benefit in San Diego is about $4.38 per person per day, or about $30.67 per week. The cost of coffee and fresh fruits and vegetables will never look the same again.

In addition to taking the CalFresh Challenge, this year we are asking participants to consider taking The Challenge while fundraising for CalFresh Outreach efforts! Your contributions can lead directly to help food insecure individuals in San Diego County receive the assistance they need to feed their families. 

Not able to take The Challenge? We would still love to see you at our 1st annual Fête to Fight Hunger at Draft Republic in UTC. Please join us if you can to close out Hunger Action Month, share stories among those that took the CalFresh Challenge, and mingle with fellow anti-hunger advocates while enjoying some food and drinks. Participation in the CalFresh Challenge is not required.


What are the rules for participating?

1. Budget

Each person should only spend a total of $30.67 on food and beverages during the week (that's about $4.38 per day).

2. What's included in the budget?

All food purchased and eaten during the Challenge week, including fast food and dining out, must be included in the total spending.

3. Food at home

During the Challenge, only eat food that you purchase for the project. Do not eat food that you already own (this does not include spices and condiments).

4. Social situations with food

Avoid accepting free food from friends, family, or at work, including receptions or briefings.

5. Journaling

Share your experience to help raise awareness!  We encourage you to document your experience throughout the week using a blog, Facebook, Twitter (give hashtag), or daily journal. Please consider posting to the official CalFresh Challenge blog, by emailing your photos and entries to Here’s a sample from one of our 2014 CalFresh Challenge participants (click here).  By posting to our blog, your experience will be shared not only with other CalFresh Challenge participants, but with elected officials and policymakers who have the power to maintain and increase CalFresh/SNAP benefits.

Use the hashtag #CalFreshChallenge to share with others on social media!

See more suggestions about sharing your story at the bottom of this page.


An important part of the CalFresh Challenge is recognizing the challenging nature of meal planning on an extremely limited budget. We hope that participants take this opportunity to be creative.

Shopping Tips (for those who would like a little help)

Make a Plan

  • Plan meals for a week and then make a list of things you need.
  • Cook several meals at once and Freeze or refrigerate them for later.
  • Use coupons or look for sales on healthy items.

Shop Smart to Eat Smart

  • Substitute meat in some meals with more legumes, beans, eggs, tofu, and nut butters.
  • Eat regular oatmeal and brown rice instead of instant.

What to Look For

  • Buy fruits and vegetables in season; they are usually fresher and cheaper.
  • Buy store brands. They are just as healthy as brand names, and cheaper.
  • Check the costs per ounce or per pound to get better deals.
  • Look for better deals on the bottom and top shelves.
  • Compare unit prices

New! Sample Meal Plan Recipes for the CalFresh Challenge:

In partnership with UCSD Center for Community Health and their UCSD dietetic intern Tiffany Craig, we are able to provide CalFresh Participants with four different sample week-long meals plans for the week of the Challenge!

All the meal plans created follow the CalFresh Challenge budget of $30.67. You can check out the recipes below and let us know how they worked for you! Feel free to send us your pictures and blog entries to

Sample Meal Plans:

Check out these Resources offered to people on CalFresh:

We have also included some tips for understanding and sharing your experience:

  • Use pictures or short videos
  • Share your “aha! moments” or other surprises in your experience with us or on your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram (use #CalFreshChallenge)
  • Consider how living this way for months might be different than just for one week
  • Reflect on the statistics and the different types of people who receive benefits and how this program may help them
  • Talk about how this experience changes your perspective


  1. Keep a journal of your experience each day.

    Entries should include what you ate, the cost of your meals, any challenges you encountered, physical or emotional experiences, and any reflection or insights you’re having. Check out this sample blog post from 2014 or some inspiration. If you're planning to share on social media, use the hashtag #CalFreshChallenge!

  2. Take photos or video!

    We love seeing photos and video of the food purchasing and preparation process or you discussing it. Feel free to be creative with this.

  3. Submit your story.

    Send your text, photos, and/or video to us at and we will post it on the blog. Please remember, your stories, photos, and videos will be public!