Santa Cruz County addresses food insecurity

Santa Cruz County addresses growing problem of food insecurity

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. - "I get used to it, you know?" said senior Yesenia Sanchez.

It's easy to get used to the beautiful UC Santa Cruz campus, but that's not what Sanchez was talking about.

"In the morning, I would go to McDonalds and then I would go to TacoBell because it's really cheap. You get a $5 box," Sanchez said.

When money is tight, Sanchez said fast food is her go to. But when her wallet is empty, that meant her stomach is, too.

Miguel Gonzalez is also used that and knows what to do.     

"I look to my sides and make sure I sit away. I'm kinda isolated so people don't hear my stomach growl," Gonzalez said.

One in four children in Santa Cruz County is going to bed hungry, according to county officials. And the problem continues as they grow up.

Many students go to food pantries at UCSC and across Santa Cruz County, but Second Harvest Food Bank estimated 20 to 30 percent of them still struggle with food insecurity.

In honor of International World Food Day, the county partnered with Second Harvest Food Bank and UCSC to let more students know about the resources available.

On Monday, some were learning about CalFresh for the first time, a program that gives qualified applicants $200 or more to spend on food each month.

"They could qualify if they are working at least 20 hours a week; if they are meeting or they have Work-Study Program; (and) if they have a kid under 12 years of age," said Joel Campo, with Second Harvest Food Bank.

The money comes from the federal government and the county wants more people to sign up.

"It helps the people who use them. It helps the community health system, and it also helps all the local businesses where these dollars are spent. So it's a win-win-win for this community," said county supervisor Ryan Coonerty.

And for Sanchez, it means fewer McMuffins for breakfast.

"I'm probably going to do an omelette," Sanchez said.

CalFresh is not available to undocumented students.

The county and its food bank partners said they are working on other ways to bring healthy food to those students.

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