Calfresh, a 'lifesaver' for Bay Area college students struggling to buy groceries

At the University of California, San Francisco, students are training to become future doctors, nurses and pharmacists. But once they pay tuition, and often staggering Bay Area rent, many students say there is little money left over to buy groceries.

That's where food stamps, or Calfresh, as it's now called, comes in.

"I have to pay for rent just like anyone, pay for amenities, pay for transportation. On top of that, pay for school," said Hailey Juszczak, a second year medical student.

Juszczak is receiving $192 a month to buy healthy groceries, the maximum allowed. "It gives me an incentive to not eat out in restaurants because I have that budget I can use at grocery stores," she said.

Calfresh is a federally funded program that issues a debit card to students who qualify. The card can be used at most markets.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is helping students get enrolled.

"When you don't have much money for food, you sometimes make tough choices about what to eat. Maybe something that's higher in sodium, which will fill you up but isn't good long term,” said Francesca Costa, program manager at the SF-Marin Food Bank. 

The University of California says across its system statewide, including UC Berkeley, almost half of all undergraduates and a quarter of graduate students say they eat less than they should because of a lack of money.

Thousands of students at UC Berkeley have applied for the Calfresh program.
About 135 students at UCSF have signed up so far, a number that's expected to grow.

"It's a lifesaver," said Juszczak.