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Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

CalFresh available to use on campus

The AS Farmers Market, Healthy U and Subway are all places on campus where students can buy food with their EBT card
Gustavo Hernandez
Students walk past the Farmers Market between the Humanities and Fine Arts building on April 11, 2024. The Associated Students Farmers Market has begun to accept EBT from students for fresh and cold vendors only. (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress)

A crowd of students gathered on Thursday in front of the Humanities building to partake in the weekly Associated Students Farmers Market, which now accepts EBT. 

In addition to the farmers market, students can also access Healthy U, a convenience store in Cesar Chavez Student Center, and the Subway located by Village at Centennial Square. Inside Healthy U, students can purchase fruit juices, pre-packaged sandwiches, chips, sushi and CBD-infused drinks. 

Associated Students has a booth at the farmers market where students can trade money on their EBT card for tokens to purchase food. Each token is worth $1. For example, if a student buys a basket of strawberries for $5, they will receive five tokens from AS.

“I feel like it’s a good resource for students who are on campus to purchase healthy food,” said Hannah Underwood, a farmers market student assistant for AS. “It gets pretty busy, especially around lunchtime.” 

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, takes the form of a debit card that provides money for program participants. CalFresh, which is formally known as food stamps, is a resource offered to low-income people. The program is intended for grocery shopping. 

Underwood is currently in the process of applying for an EBT card through CalFresh.  

“I think [EBT] is a great resource for students who need more money to be able to afford food because college is so expensive,” Underwood said. “There’s a lot of extra fees like textbooks — nowadays, you need a computer to be able to access the basic things for classes. I think it’s great to have that opportunity to get money allocated specifically for food.”

Students who wish to buy from Medina Berry Farms, Hummus Heaven and Delightful Foods Bakery can go to the AS table at the farmers market and exchange their food stamps for wooden tokens. Students can only use their EBT card on the fresh and cold vendors. Hot food vendors are not accepted by CalFresh. 

For students who have questions about applying for CalFresh benefits, Food Shelter Success, a program at SF State, provides information about the program. Students can also come by their office to pick up free snacks and hygiene products. 

“There is this narrative that being a hungry college student is a rite of passage for those who go through the higher education system in the United States,” said Christopher Lujan, the director of Food Shelter Success. “The normalization of eating instant noodles and skipping meals is a standard practice.” 

Lujan explained that he was unaware of these resources during his time as a college student. 

“I normalized my hunger and lack of access to resources,” Lujan said. “It wasn’t until I began understanding resources to help prepare myself to support students that I understood how useful CalFresh could be.” 

Jay Nayani, Associated Students member holds up the $1 dollar CalFresh EBT scrip on April 11, 2024 at Thursdays farmers market across from the Humanities building. (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress) (Gustavo Hernandez)

CalFresh provides lower-income residents with monthly food benefits. Benefits cannot be used to buy alcoholic beverages, cigarettes or paper products. 

Some CalFresh recipients can use their EBT card for restaurant meals, such as Subway — which is located on San Francisco State University’s campus. 

However, not all recipients have access to these benefits. The restaurant meal program is specifically designated for people at high risk of food insecurity. According to Lujan, those who qualify for the restaurant meal program are: an adult aged 60 or older, a person with a disability, the spouse of an individual who belongs to one of the above categories, or a person experiencing homelessness. 

“It’s too bad I couldn’t use it for a burrito,” said Steve Griffin on not being able to use his EBT card at the hot vendors section of the farmers market. 

But Griffin was able to use his EBT card to buy pita bread from Hummus Heaven and a pie from Delightful Foods. This was Griffin’s first time at the SF State Farmers Market. 

“Take full advantage of it — you don’t have to be a starving student like I was back in the day,” Griffin said to encourage students to use their EBT cards on campus. 

Rafiatu Yusif works with her husband for their business, Delightful Foods Bakery. Established in 1978, the bakery makes pies using fruit from other farmers market vendors, according to Yusif. 

“Some people feel comfortable; some of them share their personal story with you and it makes you feel kinda special,” Yusif said. “I have a lot of regulars that have come every week, some of them from three years ago.” 

Eligible recipients can receive up to $291 a month. Students must meet at least one requirement from the list below. 

  • Be enrolled in EOP (Educational Opportunity Program). 
  • Have been awarded Cal Grant A or B, work 20 hours a week. 
  • Be employed on campus and enrolled in a local education program that increases employability. 
  • Having parental control over a child under the age of six or having a child under the age of 12 while being enrolled full-time. 

Students who have a meal plan with 11 or more meals a week are currently ineligible for receiving EBT, according to an informational  pamphlet given out by Health Promotion and Wellness. 

Maximum income requirements are different based on how many people are in a household. One person needs to have an income of $2,430 a month, while a household of three people needs to have an income of $4,144. 

A student is seen at Healthy U, a convenience store located in Cesar Chavez student center that takes EBT on April 11, 2024. (Gustavo Hernandez / Golden Gate Xpress) (Gustavo Hernandez)

“I feel like EBT has alleviated a lot of stress for my parents because I am not from the city, so moving to a completely different city means they have to pay a separate rent and grocery for me,” said Winnie Ng, a second-year public health major.  

Ng lives on campus and expressed how EBT helps her buy fresh and healthy food. Her favorite items to buy with her CalFresh card are fresh strawberries and hummus. Ng goes to the farmers market every week at SFSU. 

“I really like how there’s a farmers market here because I’ve noticed that whenever I go to Trader Joe’s or some other market, the fruits are not really that fresh,” Ng said. 

Food security is essential for any person in an academic program, said Food Shelter Success director Lujan. The FSS team works closely with CalFresh and food security resources on campus. 

On the Food Shelter Success website, students can watch videos about applying to CalFresh. In order to receive CalFresh, students need to work at least 20 hours a week. 

Students can use their EBT card at Subway, located at  Village at Centennial Square, Healthy U in Cesar Chavez Student Center, and the farmers market that takes place on Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

Last semester, Health Promotion and Wellness and Food Shelter Success had a booth at the farmers market where students could take a CalFresh eligibility quiz. 

To sign up for CalFresh benefits, students can go to Questions can be answered by Lujan, the director of Food Shelter Success. FSS and HPW are located on the ground floor of Village at Centennial Square.

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About the Contributors
Natalie Metcalf
Natalie Metcalf, Staff Reporter
Natalie Metcalf (she/her) is a staff reporter from the Golden Gate Xpress. She is majoring in journalism and minoring in creative writing. She was born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles. Metcalf has previously worked as The Valley Life editor at The Valley Star, the independent student newspaper at Los Angeles Valley College. During her free time, she enjoys reading, journaling, writing poetry and making themed Spotify playlists.
Gustavo Hernandez
Gustavo Hernandez, Photographer
Gustavo Hernandez (he/him) is a staff photographer for golden gate xpress. He is double majoring in journalism (photojournalism) and BECA. He currently lives in a San Francisco where you can catch him dodging potholes on his white Vespa. He has contributed freelance photo stories for Mission Local with the ambition for more future published works.

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