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Michaela* worked hard most of her twenty seven years, sometimes juggling three jobs. Believing in the value of a good education, she secured a loan to go back to school. A full schedule of classes and studying didn’t allow much time for work, though. When Michaela reached a point where she had to choose between paying tuition/rent and eating, food came last. She utilized campus resources, namely the student pantry, but was dismayed by choices such as fruit in syrup, sugary cereal, and high-sodium pasta sauce. Her tight budget limited her grocery cart to contents like ramen, frozen dinners, and processed food.

Then an outreach worker helped Michaela sign up for the CalFresh program. The benefits allowed her to purchase healthier foods like fruits and vegetables. She began cooking more. With better meals and improved digestion spurring her on, she made exercise part of her routine and lost 15 pounds. Without money worries swirling through her mind, Michaela found it easier to pay attention in class and during study sessions.

Michaela stated, “Being able to snack on healthy food rather than junk food makes me feel better, and I don’t have to feel guilty about what I eat. I can bring my meals to school, which is nice.”

Many of her fellow students eat unwholesome food or just skip meals. Michaela passes along information about the school’s pantry and CalFresh, encouraging others to meet with the campus advocate. She shares how CalFresh is an “amazing program that helps balance needs and makes healthy eating affordable.” 

Briefly on public assistance growing up, Michaela emphasizes that she only needs help for a short time. She recalls her widowed mom’s example: returning to school to get a well-paying job in order to buy a home and provide for her kids.

Michaela said, “I’m a fulltime honor student who serves part time as a peer adviser. I volunteer when I can.  I just want to better my health while I work hard to be a productive member of society. Sometimes people need help to make good choices for themselves. CalFresh made a big difference in my academic career and the ability to help others.”

*All details in this story are true. Due to the client's wish for privacy, we changed her name and used a photograph that stands as a representation for her.