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Morning Brief: Food For Students, A Mistaken Identity (Maybe), And LA’s Flag

Three students lean over a long table next to a sign that reads "Students, you may be eligible to receive $250/month for groceries!"
UCLA students get information about enrolling in CalFresh. A study from the California Policy Lab found that 8.5% of UCLA undergraduates are enrolled in the food benefits program.
(Jill Replogle
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Good morning, L.A. It’s Feb. 24.

College is notoriously expensive, leaving the average student in California with over $21,000 in debt. To compensate, some undergraduates are forced to cut back on just about everything — including food — and that’s where CalFresh hopes to step in. 

The program provides low-income students with up to $250 per month to spend on groceries, and it can be a lifeline for those who struggle to pay for meals, reports my colleague Jill Replogle.

"The opportunity to have these benefits has been sort of life-changing,” Gina Basile, a junior at UCLA who is the first person in her family to attend college, told Jill. Basile works a minimum wage job, but found out quickly that her income wasn’t enough to cover basic necessities. “It's really frustrating, and really scary.”

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Still, the vast majority of eligible applicants don’t take advantage of the program. State officials estimate that just 18% of students who qualify are enrolled in CalFresh — and that number is up from ten years ago.

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Some experts think the reason for the low enrollment is stigma, while others believe that students just don’t know they have the option. Student volunteers are working to spread the word at many UC and Cal State campuses, and a handful of campuses are making an effort to normalize needing help.

“It's not something that people should be ashamed of,” said Ginnie Tran, a senior at UCLA who is also a CalFresh recipient. “Everybody deserves to eat."

Keep reading for more on what’s happening in L.A., and stay safe out there.

What Else You Need To Know Today

Before You Go ... LA's City Flag Is Ridiculous

The city flag of Los Angeles includes a vertical zig-zag color pattern of green, yellow and red, with the city seal in the middle.
LA's City flag
(Courtesy the City of Los Angeles)

Did you know that L.A. has a city flag? Well, it does, and we have some questions. My colleague Ryan Fonseca set about trying to answer them back in 2019, and we still don’t quite understand how this particular combination of colors, shapes, and designs came to represent our fair city. Come dig into the mystery with us.

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