It may surprise you to learn that San Diego has one of the most effective solutions to hunger at our fingertips. It’s called CalFresh, a program that is designed to uplift families by ensuring people receive the sustenance they need, enabling them to focus on working toward self-sufficiency. That’s a big deal.
But thousands of families in San Diego County who are eligible for CalFresh don’t use the program. Why? There are a few reasons, but a major cause is that decades ago, CalFresh was called “food stamps.” These two words conjure up a storm of stigma, stereotypes and misinformation powerful enough to keep families struggling with hunger from applying for this food assistance.
While the connotations of food stamps have always been based in myth, today they are further from the truth than ever. The reality is that after decades of improvements and technology upgrades to the program, CalFresh has become one of the most effective, wide-reaching strategies we have for bringing food to the plates of people who don’t have enough to eat.
We invite you to learn these facts about CalFresh and share them with your friends and family. If we remove the harmful stigma of CalFresh and build awareness of its benefits, we will be one step closer to ensuring no one in San Diego has to go to bed hungry.
What exactly is CalFresh?
CalFresh is simply a monthly supplement to a household’s food budget. On average, the program offers $4.38 per person, per day disbursed to a debit card (called an EBT card) that can be used to purchase a limited category of food products (no tobacco, alcohol, toiletries or hot foods). Households with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line should apply to see if they qualify for the program.
CalFresh is the California name for the federally funded program called SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) at the national level. It is the more advanced, modern and effective iteration of “food stamps.”
Does it work?
Like a charm. On average, households in San Diego County enroll in CalFresh for just under two years before moving towards food security. CalFresh changes lives – just ask Jim.
What’s the problem?
Only an estimated 67 percent of eligible, food-insecure people in San Diego County are enrolled in CalFresh. Enrollment rates are low because of barriers like social stigma, lengthy application processes and lack of awareness.
To fix this, San Diego Hunger Coalition leads the CalFresh Task Force, a group of over 50 organizations including the San Diego Food Bank and others, working together to improve our CalFresh enrollment systems. By leading research, education and advocacy efforts among a wide range of hunger relief partners in San Diego, the Hunger Coalition builds a more effective and interconnected system of food assistance resources to help families access the food they need.
What are some myths about CalFresh I can help debunk?
Myth: CalFresh has high rates of fraud.
Fact: CalFresh has one of the most rigorous quality control systems and the lowest fraud rates of any public benefit program, less than 2%.
Myth: Applying for CalFresh can impact my immigration status.
Fact: Applying for CalFresh does not affect your immigration status or your application for citizenship in any way. Legal permanent residents are eligible for CalFresh immediately in California, and receiving benefits will not hurt your chances of becoming a citizen. Similarly, if you are an undocumented immigrant and apply for CalFresh on behalf of your citizen children, your immigration status will not be shared with authorities. Confidentiality is strictly enforced at all CalFresh offices.
How can I make a difference?
Share the facts with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter. If you think a friend or neighbor may qualify for CalFresh, tell them that many community-based organizations like San Diego Food Bank are able to help them through the enrollment process. Click here for more information on these agencies.
Springtime offers a bounty of fruits and vegetables. Because they are one of the first fruits to ripen in the spring, May is the month of strawberries! Strawberries are rich in vitamin C, folic acid, potassium and fiber. They are healthy, delicious and bite-sized, and make a great snack. These berries can also be used to make salads, sandwiches, smoothies, preserves, fruit skewers, or try them sliced and served with yogurt or ice cream. Did you know that strawberries are red because of anthocyanins which help fight cancer, heart disease and diabetes? Can you say super fruit?!
Choose bright red strawberries with bright green caps, making sure there is no mold on the berries. It is recommended that you eat strawberries as soon as possible or store them at room temperature for a few hours or in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days. Wash, remove the hulls and freeze strawberries in freezer bags to store them for longer periods.
There are some quick and easy recipes with strawberries on www.eatright.org – one of my favorites being a quick, delicious and creamy ice cream using strawberries, Greek yogurt and avocados.
Recipe: Quick Strawberry-Avocado Ice Cream
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Freezing time: 1 hour
Number of servings: 2
½ a ripe avocado, peeled
½ cup strawberries, washed and hulled
½ cup vanilla Greek yogurt
3-4 strawberries, washed, hulled and sliced
1. Blend the ingredients together in a blender or food processor until smooth and creamy.
2. Transfer mixture to a freeze-friendly container and freeze for an hour or so.
3. Serve cold with sliced strawberries.
4. For a fun twist, the ice cream mixture may be poured into Popsicle molds.
Here’s wishing you a berry sweet and fruitful May!
This month we are increasing awareness about preventing osteoporosis and maintaining good bone health. Osteoporosis is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile due to bone loss. The bone loss may be caused by several factors including sedentary lifestyles, deficiency of nutrients like vitamin D and calcium, and hormonal changes. Bone health is important at any age, because bones support and protect our body. Childhood and adolescence are bone building years, and peak bone mass is attained between late teens and early twenties. Higher peak bone mass is associated with decreased risk of osteoporosis later in life.
Here are some ways to increase or protect your bone health, as recommended by the National Osteoporosis Foundation.
1. Get sufficient vitamin D through sunlight, diet (fatty fish like mackerel, tuna and salmon and fortified foods like milk, orange juice and cereals) and/or vitamin D supplements if recommended by your healthcare provider.
2. Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercise like weight training, walking, hiking, jogging, tennis, and dance.
3. Eat a well-balanced diet including:
– Calcium-rich foods like milk, yogurt, green leafy vegetables and beans
– Lean protein like lean meat cuts, fish, eggs, beans, peas, nuts and dairy
– Vitamin C-rich foods including citrus fruits, cantaloupe, mango, broccoli and bell peppers
– Vitamin K-rich foods including kale, collards, turnip greens and beet greens
– Potassium-rich foods
– Magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, dates, nuts, seafood, spinach, potato, sweet potato,
chard, okra and pumpkin
– Omega 3 Fatty Acids-rich foods:
Plant based foods like flax seeds and oil, chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, canola
oil, seaweed, purslane and edamame
Fatty fish including tuna, anchovies, sardines, halibut, oysters, salmon and
4. Make healthy lifestyle choices by avoiding smoking and reducing alcohol consumption
Hope you have a healthful and happy Osteoporosis Prevention Month!
This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week. Food allergies are unpleasant and can trigger potentially dangerous reactions of the immune system to the allergy-causing foods or food allergens. Food allergies may develop in childhood or adulthood, and may persist or disappear; though their cause is unidentified. Symptoms include digestive trouble, rashes, hives, swollen airways and sometimes the potentially fatal stage of anaphylaxis*. The best way to avoid food allergies is to eliminate the problematic food or allergen from the food we eat. Food labeling laws require the most common food allergens be listed on foods. Some products that may contain food allergens in hidden form include cosmetics, certain medicines, pet food and toys – making it super important to read and understand ingredients in food labels. Although any food can cause an allergic reaction, the majority of food allergies are caused by eight common food allergens.
See image above for a food allergen substitute graph.
Finally, as a mother of a preschooler with a severe peanut allergy, I consider it especially important to educate children with food allergies as well as their parents, siblings, peers in school, teachers and extended family members about avoiding and managing food allergies to help prevent allergic reactions. Click here for some useful tips to stay safe and allergy-free!
*It’s important to know that anaphylaxis requires treatment with epinephrine and medical care involving monitoring vital signs.
The first week of May is National Herb Week, and the chili pepper is the herb of the year for 2016. Chili peppers are good sources of vitamin C, most of the B vitamins, potassium, magnesium and iron, and can range from sweet (like bell peppers) to spicy (like ghost peppers) in taste. They come in a rainbow of colors, shapes and sizes.
Stuffed peppers are a perfectly flavorful way to celebrate National Herb Week this year. To make stuffed peppers, a variety of peppers like bell peppers and poblano peppers may be used. And herbs like mint, oregano, basil, parsley, cilantro, rosemary and fennel may be used fresh or dried to add zest.
Here are some tips to keep herbs fresh and flavorful for the longest possible time:
- Store fresh herbs unwashed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Herbs whose leaves wilt or brown easily may be stored in a glass of water with the stems in water and a plastic bag loosely covering the leaves.
- Wash hands in soapy water and fresh herbs thoroughly in cold water before using them. This helps minimize bacterial contamination.
- Heat and light can destroy the flavor in dried herbs. Store dried herbs in airtight containers away from heat and light, in pantry shelves.
Here is the recipe of stuffed minty bell peppers.
Recipe: Stuffed Minty Bell Peppers
Preparation time: 30 minutes
- 2 bell peppers, cored and halved
- ½ cup mushrooms, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- ¼ cup mint, finely chopped
- ¼ cup cilantro finely chopped
- ½ cup cooked rice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
1. Preheat oven at 400°F.
2. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the garlic and mushrooms, and sauté for 5 minutes.
3. Add mint, cilantro, lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
4. Cook rice according to directions and blend with the sautéed mixture.
5. Take the pan off heat and stuff the rice mixture into the peppers.
6. Bake in oven for 20 minutes until peppers are soft and browned on the edges.
7. Serve warm as is or with a dollop of Greek yogurt.
“DPR Construction – Integral and Indispensable to San Diego Food Bank’s Success in Assisting Low-Income Community Members”
The vision of DPR Construction is to be “integral and indispensable” to the communities the San Diego builder serves. This company-wide vision manifests itself at the local level through a series of volunteer activities and community projects organized by individuals with a passion for getting involved and making a difference. Recently, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and the low-income, food insecure community members we serve have been the beneficiaries of DPR Construction’s team member’s skill and passion for enriching the San Diego community.
Beginning with last September’s 25 Days 25 Year company celebration, continuing with the 12 Days of Giving effort in December and including last month’s volunteer showing at the Food Bank’s Miramar warehouse, the team from DPR Construction has regularly found ways to support the work of the Food Bank in addressing hunger issues. Led by Sarah Williams, the building company’s service is always marked by enthusiasm, selflessness and dedication to the project.
“With the Food Bank we can have a direct impact on the community,” said Williams in explaining why DPR Construction has chosen to get involved in this way. “It puts our people in the community with an established organization that has a great track record. It’s the type of impact DPR Construction wants to have. We know what we are doing is helping other people. And, we have a great time getting the job done.”
Teams of DPR Construction volunteers have sorted food products, stocked boxes and assisted with other production tasks during their time at the Food Bank. The local company, one of San Diego’s top-ranked builders, has also hosted a virtual food drive to garner financial support for the Food Bank’s work. In addition, Williams worked with Food Bank staff to write and submit a grant application to the DPR Foundation. That effort resulted in a grant award of $10,000 being presented to the Food Bank to provide support for the Food 4 Kids Backpack Program, which provides weekend food to chronically-hungry elementary school children.
“For me personally, I was really affected by the volunteer orientation video we were shown and the number of children who go hungry in our community,” Williams shared. “My primary passion and area of interest lies with helping youth. I was very excited the grant proposal was selected for funding. It’s nice to know how strong the Food Bank is and how many individuals and other organizations it supports.”
According to Williams, DPR Construction’s ongoing engagement with the Food Bank will continue throughout 2016 with several future opportunities already scheduled.
“We have a lot of good-hearted people and it’s as easy as pointing them in the right direction,” Williams said. “People who have gone and volunteered at the Food Bank have had fun doing it. It’s great when you know what you are doing is helping other people.”
The Food Bank sends a heartfelt “Thankful Thursday” thank you to the wonderful team from DPR Construction for all of their support – volunteer and financial. No doubt, you are an integral and indispensable part of our efforts to address hunger and food insecurity in our local community.
If you or your group would like to set up a time to come in and volunteer at the Food Bank’s Miramar warehouse, please check out the “Volunteer” page on our website here and complete the “Group Registration” form. For assistance, contact Volunteer Engagement Coordinator Cristina Sierra at 858-863-5121.
Spring season is here, and so is asparagus! Available from March through June each year, asparagus is rich in iron, potassium, vitamin A, folic acid, thiamin, vitamin C, vitamin K and fiber. Asparagus spears can be white, green or purple in color, and are available in standard, large, extra-large and jumbo sizes – the thicker spears being juicier.
Asparagus is used to make a variety of soups, salads, noodles and stir-fry and can be eaten simply steamed with a dash of salt and pepper. Did you know that asparagus contains the phytochemical rutin which helps strengthen blood vessels and can help fight cancers?
Here’s a recipe for a stir-fry with asparagus and tofu. It is delicious as is, or served with brown rice, quinoa or noodles.
Recipe: Asparagus andTofu Stir-fry
10 minutes plus 2 hours for marinating the tofu
Number of servings: 4
- 2 cups tofu, cubed
- 1 bunch asparagus, chopped
- 3-4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 3-4 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 4 tbsp coconut milk
- ½ tsp Sriracha sauce for a spicy twist
- Salt and lemon juice to taste
- Mix together the soy sauce and salt, add the tofu and marinate for 1-2 hours.
- Heat the oil in a pan.
- Add the garlic and asparagus and sauté for 5 minutes.
- Add tofu, peanut butter and coconut milk.
- Stir for 3-4 more minutes. Enjoy!
Sandwiches are amazingly versatile and can be easy to put together, less messy, healthy and satisfyingly scrumptious. They can also be made to accommodate most eating choices including vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and nut-free.
Peanut butter jelly sandwiches, bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches and grilled cheese sandwiches are popular sandwiches in America. Sandwiches can be eaten for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Most of the ingredients to make a tasty and nutrient-packed sandwich are usually available in our kitchens. So go ahead, get creative and invent your new favorite sandwich!
Here are some basic ingredients to get started!
1. Start with 2 slices of bread. Whole wheat, rye, multi-grain and gluten-free bread options are easily available in grocery stores.
2. Choose veggies or fruits like lettuce, spinach, arugula, tomatoes, avocados, onions, bell peppers, cucumbers, sautéed mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini and artichokes, sprouts, strawberries, kiwi, bananas, apples, pears, raisins and grapes.
3. Pick protein sources from a variety of lean meats, seafood, beans, tofu, low-fat cheese and cream cheese, and nut butters.
4. Add flavor to the sandwich using a dash of pepper, honey, low-fat mayo, salsa, guacamole or your favorite dip or salad dressing.
5. You can choose to grill or bake the assembled sandwich, especially the savory ones to add extra zing to the sandwiches.
Need some inspiration? Here are some resources for delicious sandwich recipes!
Nutrition messages change on the daily. What advice do I follow? How do I know what to believe? What’s the difference between a registered dietitian and nutritionist?
National Nutrition Month is coming to an end, and I wanted to share one last message: A registered dietitian nutritionist can provide sound, easy-to-follow personalized nutrition advice to meet your lifestyle, preferences and health-related needs.
The titles of registered dietitian and nutritionist do not mean the same thing:
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (often referred to as a Dietitian): A health professional who has been specifically trained in nutrition and meets national standards of practice. Registered Dietitian Nutritionists complete 1200 supervised practice hours and have to pass a national credentialing exam. On top of that, they are required to maintain continuing hours of education. Dietitians are held accountable for their conduct so the information you get from a Dietitian is reliable, professional advice.
Nutritionist: The term nutritionist can be given to anyone. Most nutritionists have no formal nutrition education and a few have qualifications in areas like food science or human nutrition. While most are well-meaning, be cautious if choosing to take advice from a nutritionist as they may not be fully informed.
I realize it’s difficult to sort through all the conflicting nutrition messages on the TV, internet, and in magazines. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If a new diet is cutting out 80% of healthful foods, it may not be a healthy diet. If you’re reading a nutrition article, check to see if the author is a Dietitian. The main thing to remember: Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate food. Stick to real, fresh, healthful foods. Veggies, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and dairy.
If you have questions about nutrition check out reliable websites like eatright.org and foodandnutrition.org or ask your Registered Dietitian Nutritionist! Check with your insurance provider, because your visit with the Dietitian might be covered.
Healthy eating is one of the most powerful tools to reduce the onset of disease. And what’s more – eating healthy can be delicious and enjoyable by accommodating personal taste preferences, cultural food traditions and budget restrictions!
Small changes like adding new vegetables to traditional dishes, and cooking meals at home adds healthfulness along with deliciousness to the food we eat.
Being a native of southern India, I enjoy home-cooked vegetarian meals using a lot of Indian spice mixes with my family. Traditional meals include rice served with stews and sautés made from lentils, beans, peas and vegetables. On weekends, I make the more elaborate southern Indian breakfasts like crepes and steamed cakes made from a batter of fermented rice and lentils, and dips made with coconut, lentils and vegetables.
I try to incorporate whole grains, local and seasonal vegetables and fruits into our meals to get the most nourishment (as seasonal and local produce are at their peak freshness and nutrient levels). Involving my kids in the process, like buying vegetables together at the Farmers’ Market, and washing, prepping and setting the table for mealtimes, helps them learn about the food they eat and gives them a sense of accomplishment. This in turn teaches healthy eating patterns which may continue in adulthood.
I also enjoy experimenting with cuisines from different parts of the world which opens doors to a wider variety of delicious and nourishing foods. Many grocery stores sell herbs, spices and spice mixes used in different cuisines at pocket-friendly prices. Hope you take time to enjoy food traditions and find creative, healthful and nutritious ways to add flavor to food, starting this month!