CalFresh Challenge: Day One

Second Harvest CalFresh Outreach Workers, Luisa, Sandra and Yaceth have begun taking the CalFresh Challenge. Here, Yaceth and Luisa share the experience of menu planning and grocery shopping within their new budget constraints.


Yaceth Virgen

My Name is Yaceth Virgen and I’m part of the CalFresh Outreach team at Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County. I find My Job very rewarding, not only do I enroll low-income families or individuals into the federally funded program of Calfresh, I also offer knowledge about the program and follow-up with clients through the application process. Since Calfresh is the first line of defense against hunger, our goal for Hunger Action Month is to engage members of our community in the fight to end hunger by raising awareness of the issue and encouraging action in our community.

The SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as CalFresh in California) Challenge encourages participants to get a sense of what life is like for millions of low-income Americans facing hunger. Can you survive on only $4.50 a day? That’s only $1.50 per meal. I’m taking on this challenge as a household with my partner and my one year old daughter. We have a budget of $94.50 for our household for the seven days.

Days before the challenge began, we started to ask our friends and family about where they shop and started looking at ads, comparing prices. We normally shop and purchase items we like that are not generally on sale. Our usual items are organic or locally grown produce or out of our garden. But we also make major purchases at chain stores.

We started planning our meals for the week before we headed out to shop at the grocery store where we could get really good deals. Our shopping cart didn’t have our usual spurges like our favorite purple organic potatoes, but instead we purchased a larger quantity of white potatoes for about the same price. We were also able to purchase some of our favorite greens like kale and romaine lettuce.


As we were waiting in the long line, I was feeling very nervous. I was feeling very much insecure about how much we were was going to spend. I was debating which item I would be face to leave behind if I went over my budget. We only spent $43.00 of this grocery trip. We still have money left over to make more purchases through the week.

Healthy food is actually sometimes cheaper than processed fatty foods. It’s all about making a plan. Our first meal was Soy Tacos al Pastor and my daughter ate soy crumbles with tomatoes.


Luisa Hudspeth

I started planning my meals since I committed to participate in this challenge; it was stressful to plan a week of three meals a day with only $4.50 per day.

When I got to the store, it was hard to remain focused on the things that would take me through the week of the challenge. I felt some embarrassment when choosing my items based on prices.


Today I felt positive and eager to participate in this challenge; I had for breakfast two boiled eggs a banana and a cup of coffee. After a day of work doing some outreach, I was exposed to a variety of foods, which was a temptation and a sort of a frustration because I could not manage to pay for it.


I had for lunch some chicken, a banana, and some water. I felt like I could continue eating but I know that I have to be conservative and make sure that I have enough food for the rest of the week.


I cooked some beans so I had a bowl of beans with just a little bit of chicken to make it last.

Sandra Varela

I went grocery shopping on Sunday. First I just want to say that the people that really struggle don’t have that opportunity, they have to live on a day by day basis.

We did outreach on Sunday at La Plaza on Main Street. There were so many food venders and the smell was really giving me an appetite, so I grabbed my water and I chugged some. I went home and prepared my second meal  (I had some salad for breakfast).

I did not need a shopping cart when I went to the store. All I needed was a little basket. I really had no clue if I was going to have enough so I grabbed a few things, then I went back to get a little more. I really never took the time to try and fix so many meals with so little. But let me tell you, my stomach does not like my changes. I do work out and when you work out you need to eat healthier. With this budget, the cheapest is the worst food you could have.

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