Hundreds of Students Seek CalFresh Information, Benefits

The Associated Students (AS) Office of Food and Housing Resources and The Hub hosted UC San Diego’s first CalFresh Superclinic last Thursday for a packed room of students at The Forum in Price Center.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known as CalFresh in California, is a federally-mandated and state-managed program that assists low-income households in purchasing grocery items. Purchases are made using funds loaded onto an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card; the amount allotted depends on a variety of factors, such as family size, income, and monthly expenses.

In 2016, 68 percent of UCSD students surveyed said they had skipped or cut the size of meals because there wasn’t enough money for food at least once.

The Hub and and the AS Office of Food and Housing Resources partnered with the San Diego Food Bank and the Financial Aid Office in order to promote and host the CalFresh Superclinic. Over the course of one day, students made appointments for pre-screenings, received assistance for the CalFresh application, and were interviewed to learn if they could be approved or denied for the benefits.

Alicia Magallanes, the UC San Diego Basic Needs Coordinator, said that the CalFresh Superclinic was created as a result of legislation that passed in 2017, which expanded the program eligibility requirements for students.

“With this expanded eligibility, the UC system is bringing more presence and awareness to the program,” Magallanes said.

With assistance from the Financial Aid Office, an email about the Superclinic was sent out to UCSD students and received over 400 replies. Of the 400-plus responses, only the first 100 were able to be accommodated at the Superclinic. According to Magallanes, other options will be made available for students who were unable to be take part.

“We will be able to connect all the students to the [CalFresh] opportunity, whether it’s through independently applying online, since our campus has a unique URL for getcalfresh.org which is only for UC San Diego students, [or] at weekly CalFresh workshops at The Hub from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesdays,” Magallanes said. “We will be able to offer other options for all the students that expressed interest.”

The Associate Vice President of Food and Housing Resources, Kiara Gomez, said that the CalFresh Superclinic has helped students access a beneficial, free resource.

While bringing CalFresh [to UCSD] still leaves work to be done with food insecurity, I believe it was an important first step in immediate relief for students,” Gomez said. “Students cannot be students if they are worried about where their next meal is going to come from.”

Matthew Rom-Toribio is a staff writer at The Triton.