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For Many San Diegans, Food Stamp Challenge Lasts More Than A Week

Bret Fisher holds up his Gold State Advantage card, which gives him access to...

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Above: Bret Fisher holds up his Gold State Advantage card, which gives him access to CalFresh benefits, May 5, 2017.

All this week, San Diegans will be attempting to live on a food budget of $4.18 a day, as part of the #CalFreshChallenge.

All this week, San Diegans will be attempting to live on a food budget of $4.18 a day, as part of the CalFresh Challenge.

The annual event is meant to highlight the fact that $4.18 a day is the average amount San Diego County residents receive in food stamps, which in California are called CalFresh benefits.

But for many, the challenge lasts more than a week.

Bret Fisher, a longtime San Diego resident, receives $16 a month in CalFresh benefits, which works out to about 50 cents a day.

He uses the money to supplement his food budget of about $200 a month, and said while $16 doesn't seem like a lot, it helps.

"When you're disabled and you're poor that's actually a lot of money," he said. "That makes me able to put together a stew or something like that."

Fisher works in horticulture and landscape maintenance, but currently cannot work because of a spinal condition. He said he applied for CalFresh in November 2016, and after months of working through bureaucracy with help from the nonprofit San Diego Hunger Coalition, his benefits were approved.

He said he cooks all of his meals at home to make his money go farther, and the $16 a month helps him add fresher, more healthy foods to his diet.

He is also hoping to get surgery on his back soon so he can return to work at least part time.

"You don't want to take, you'd rather be giving, I'd rather be working and contributing to other people," he said.

On applying for CalFresh, he said, "I gave it some thought and I was having trouble feeding myself, so the little bit of money I do get on CalFresh helps my diet to be better and I consider that a good investment in myself to keep me well."

Fisher said he is glad to see people attempting the CalFresh Challenge because it gets out the message of the challenges many people face.

The challenge will go from Monday to Friday this week.

San Diego Hunger Coalition will also be fundraising through May 15 for its CalFresh Task Force, which helps eligible people enroll in the food stamps program.

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