Students share their experience with the CalFresh program at UC Davis
By JENNIFER MA — email@example.com
CalFresh, also known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), helps individuals and families with monthly food assistance. This is done through food stamps and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards. According to the CalFresh website, it is the largest food program in California.
CalFresh financially supported almost 5,000 UC Davis students in 2019-2020, according to a California Policy Lab study. This equates to about 15% of the student population and is higher than the systemwide average. The 15% does not, however, represent the entire student population that experiences food insecurity. The data from the study is based on the student enrollment rates in CalFresh rather than who is eligible. In fact, at UC Davis alone, 39% of undergraduates report low or very low rates of food security according to the UC Undergraduate Experience Survey from 2020.
Jonathan Kha, a third-year human biology and Asian American studies double major, shared his experience with CalFresh.
“I remember when I had first moved in and was in the process of applying, I just spent a lot of money out of pocket,” Kha said. “I didn’t realize that that was a hindrance on my family’s finances overall, just because things slowly add up. And for me, it was my first time paying for groceries. Also, when I had to spend money out of pocket, I was very stingy on what I ate and most of the times, that translated to bad eating habits.”
According to Kha, his participation in CalFresh ended up getting him access to more nutritious foods, but there was a period of time where he did have problems with the program.
“Every once in a while, CalFresh asks for those who are part of the program to report their income for the past month and such,” Kha said. “And so I assumed [because I work] a campus job, I wouldn’t have to really report it because it’s like work study. In doing so, I had CalFresh terminated for about two to three months, and while I was trying to get in contact with them, it took a while for me to get all that money that I was supposed to receive in CalFresh or EBT benefits. It took a really long time to get that compensated.”
Monica Lui, a third-year managerial economics major, shared similar sentiments about communication difficulties associated with the program.
“I applied for CalFresh in September 2021, and I started getting benefits in October 2021,” Lui said. “I feel like the process wasn’t too bad. They were really efficient, but there were a few miscommunications here and there. Sometimes I felt like it was hard to reach out to their specific offices when I had specific questions.”
Lui also mentioned that the program can only give out benefits to so many people, and widening the eligibility requirements would allow more students to have access to a stable source of food.
Eligibility requirements include being classified as a student and meeting other criteria, such as being approved for work-study or working at least 20 hours per week. However, if a student does not meet one of these requirements, they may still be eligible. Those that are undocumented, with a student visa or are DACA/AB540 are not eligible, according to the CalFresh website.
CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Martin Tellez, however, stated that there are solutions for those ineligible.
“The Aggie Compass Basic Needs Center can also help students find other food resources they can access without meeting any eligibility requirements, like the ASUCD Pantry, the Eat Well Yolo food distribution, Fruit and Veggie Up!, and more,” Tellez said via email. “Just visit aggiecompass.ucdavis.edu.”
Tellez also mentioned that students who are interested in CalFresh can apply online at any time, or they can call 530-752-9254 to make an appointment with a CalFresh outreach team for application support and to better understand eligibility requirements.
Written by: Jennifer Ma — firstname.lastname@example.org