“I thought I didn’t deserve help, that I wasn’t poor enough or there were other people who needed it more than me,” explained Maria, a student at San Diego City College, when asked why she hadn’t applied for CalFresh earlier.

This said by a young woman who is a full-time student working three jobs, doing everything she can to get by. Piling on to the struggles of paying for rent, gas money or a trolley pass, books, and utilities, buying food often was the budget item that got cut.

With the little food money she did have, making healthy choices wasn’t easy.

“OK, I only have $5, so where can I go?” Maria remembers asking herself. “McDonalds or should I get a box of Cup of Noodles? And obviously I know it’s not the healthiest thing, but I thought it was pretty much my only option.”

When money was tight, sometimes eating was not possible. Maria would choose to skip a meal so she could afford to get to school and hope later in the day a friend would be kind enough to share their food with her.

Finally, Maria had had enough and knew she needed to reach out for help. She learned about CalFresh through a school organization and decided to apply. Maria was linked up with Rachel Oporto, coordinator of the CalFresh team for Feeding San Diego. Rachel walked Maria through the application process and was there to assist her all along the way.

“When I started CalFresh, I had three jobs; now I’ve matriculated into one!” she said, noting that CalFresh allowed her to stretch her food budget so much farther. She can now concentrate more fully on her studies, and planning her next career steps.

Since starting CalFresh, Maria has also begun a journey toward a healthier life by buying and preparing more nutritious food. Now instead of fast food, she is able to afford fresh produce, something she never could do before. She’s educating herself about the different benefits of each type of produce and how they impact her body. CalFresh has not only allowed Maria to put food in her stomach, but it’s granted her the means to build a healthy lifestyle.

Maria chose to tell her story hoping to encourage other students to apply for CalFresh. These resources are here to be used, she says, and she urges her classmates to take advantage of them.

To learn more about CalFresh and to find out if you are eligible visit our webpage with all the details. If you are eligible and submit a form, a CalFresh outreach representative from Feeding San Diego will contact you to answer questions and help you apply.

Watch Maria’s full story here.