Our Food Connection team is out in the community or in our call center, helping our neighbors in need access free food programs, including CalFresh (also known as food stamps). Available to individuals and families with low incomes, CalFresh is provided in an EBT debit card and can use it to purchase groceries and fresh produce at participating grocery stores and farmers’ markets just like you would any other debit card.
Here are a few stories from our Food Connection team about some of the people they’ve helped:
Food Connection Coordinator Jaime R:
“I met with Ms. H, a housekeeper at San Mateo Medical Center. She shared how difficult it was to get by. She’s partially disabled due to arthritis and has difficulty walking. Nevertheless, she said, ‘I would rather work than stay at home and collect disability payments benefits.’ I learned that her husband and son were both disabled and very sick at home. Both of them collected very low amounts in disability benefits. Ms. H said, ‘It’s very hard to get food for us three on a fixed income, especially healthy food because my husband has diabetes and high blood pressure and my son has a medical condition.’ She mentioned that the high cost of living and paying rent was hard on her extremely tight budget.
I helped enroll her in three of our food programs located near her home in South San Francisco. Ms. H said she was previously embarrassed to go to the food distribution sites because it made her feel like she was not a ‘good citizen,’ but said she would ‘get over the feeling.’ I then made an appointment for her to apply for CalFresh benefits the following week and thanked her for sharing her story.”
Food Connection Coordinator Maria H.:
“I met Cristina, a single mom of a 15 year old daughter, at the Sequoia High School Family Center in Redwood City. Cristina got injured at work and hasn’t been able to do her usual cleaning job. After her Worker’s Comp ran out and she still couldn’t return to work, she applied for State Disability. She was approved but wouldn’t get her first payment for a month or more. Cristina had no family to help her and she didn’t know how she could pay rent of $1,698, so she went to the Family Center where she was referred to me.
I helped her apply for CalFresh and she got approved to get $357 monthly! She was also extremely happy to begin to participate in the Family Harvest and Produce Mobile programs at Hawes Elementary School. She came back to share her news with me and noted how much she loved the sweet potatoes that she received. She was so grateful and happy that there are places like this to help with food. I am noticing that people come back to let me know how they are doing – that’s really nice.”
Food Connection Field Specialist Rubi S.:
“I helped a lady apply for CalFresh. As we were working on her application, she mentioned to me that she had lost her job and is struggling to get by. When I asked her where she lived, she broke down in tears and said she was living in her car. She seemed to be a bit embarrassed. I gave her some tissue and apologized that she was going through a rough patch. I also told her that this is a step in the right direction. After we finished her application, I gave her some other resources and told her to look in the library – they have a resource table where she could find some great information. As she was leaving the library, she came back and thanked me. She felt like things would really get better.”
Food Connection Outreach Specialist Marie K.:
“When I was working at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Sunnyvale clinic, a man came up to me and asked if I recognized him. I told him that I didn’t recognize him. He told me that I helped him with his CalFresh application and that he got approved. Then I remembered that I had helped him in early August. He needed to take care of his wife who couldn’t see due to her illness. I asked if things were getting better for him. He thanked me and told me, ‘I am very happy now.’ Seeing the joyful expression on his face, I couldn’t really believe that my simple action of helping him fill out an application could make him feel so happy.”
Food Connection Hotline Specialist Quy N.:
“I returned a call from a woman that wanted to apply for CalFresh. She was a single mom with two kids. She was also a domestic violence victim for many years. She had two jobs, but only worked a few hours a week. She told me she would quit both of them because no one helped her take care of her kids after school and she needed to stay home with them. During our conversation, she asked me, ‘Is it safe? This is my first time, so I don’t know how to apply. I’m jobless next week and my kids really need help.’ I could tell she was really worried. I helped her apply for CalFresh and told her about how she can get food though our programs while she waited to hear if she qualified for CalFresh benefits.”
Food Connection Field Specialist Genesis C.:
“I was at the San Mateo Medical Center and I helped a client fill out a CalFresh application. He was going through a lot of health and economic issues. He was also very frustrated. I tried my best to be reassuring. At the end, he asked, ‘Are you always this nice?’ I replied, ‘Yes.’ He replied by saying, ‘Thank you so much for all your help. You have been very helpful.’
He came back about 20 minutes later to ask me more questions about the food programs and if he could take a flyer and card for a friend of his. I gave him everything he needed. I texted him instructions of what I had previously told him since he wanted that in case he forgot. He thanked me again and texted me, ‘With you helping people who need food, I don’t think anybody will ever go hungry.'”
Food Connection Hotline Manager Vu T.:
“I helped an older Vietnamese woman at our Curtner Center lobby. This woman was sad and explained that she needed food assistance because her husband just died and she was having trouble with income and having enough money for food. I helped her apply for our Brown Bag program for seniors and I also told her about other food programs, including CalFresh. She now gets food through our Brown Bag program and she’ll call us back about those other food programs if she needs more help. It’s good to be able to help people in need.”