Food+Shelter+Success Blog

Welcome to the F+S+S blog! This blog is a space where basic needs student leaders share what they are learning and doing in the context of food and housing. Our content ranges from topics like saving money on textbooks, making food last longer, growing vegetables, and self-care routines. As college students, we understand the struggles of food and housing insecurity, and we are here to help empower our SFSU family to achieve success with practices that can be applied to everyday life!

Meet the Authors

Elia Azazel

Hello, I’m Elia Azazel! I am a Child & Adolescence Development major and one of the F+S+S assistants! I am a consumer of many types of media such as video games, comics, tv shows, podcasts, films, and anything horror. Some of my favorite things are Batman V Superman (the director’s cut of course) and The Magnus Archives podcast.

Yazmin Hernandez Luna

Ciao! I'm Yazmin Hernandez Luna, born and raised in Los Angeles California, and a first-generation college student whose major is in Public Health. I am a very introverted person but, once I get comfortable, the goofy side and very sarcastic me come to life. When I am not in school, I love to do activities like painting, reading books, learning a new language, and participating in outdoor activities.  At a young age, I was always taught that I should always lend a helping hand to others and this lesson motivated me into creating beautiful and informational content that may inspire and help other SFSU students in achieving their goals.

KC Agramon

Hey! I’m KC Agramon. I’m a junior, majoring in Public Health. I’m an adventurer; I love exploring the city as well as finding parks in SF to have picnics in or read books at. I love running before the sun comes out in the morning to start off my day. I think the best way to end my day is to watch the sunset or to go biking before the sun comes down!

The Blog

Author: KC Agramon

After this long and unusual semester, we are all looking forward to finally getting a relaxing break. There are a variety of ways to enjoy your time after the semester is over. Here are some things you can do to make this holiday break as productive as possible! 

But First Errands

For me, the first step to destress is to accomplish everything on my to-do list items; like going grocery shopping. Getting my errands done for the week gives me relief, because I know after I finish everything on my to-do list I can relax! Though getting my shopping done early can be a relief, if I do not have enough resources that week it can actually be more stressful than relaxing. If you feel the same or find yourself not having enough money to buy your groceries reach out to the CalFresh help clinic! CalFresh gives eligible students free grocery money. Do you need help applying? The CalFresh Help Clinic can help you with the application process if you don’t know where to start.

Next Adventure!

Once you get your errands done you could also explore your city! I live in San Francisco and like to bike and walk to different locations in the city and enjoy the scenery here are some of my SF go-to’s.

  • Lake Merced where you could enjoy nature and the lake.
  • Ocean beach where you can hear ocean waves and scenic views!
  • Embarcadero where you could see the bay bridge and if you walk far enough you could enjoy the pier.
  • You could also walk to Marina Green/ Crissy Fields where you could see the Golden Gate bridge, marsh, and the beach all within close location from one another!
  • If you’re feeling like you just want to stay in one place and enjoy the views Palace of Fine Arts or Dolores Park might be the place for you. These two locations both have great picnic areas where you can sit by yourself or with family! You could also have your picnics on previous locations stated above (just make the most out of it)!

There are a variety of ways you can enjoy your break. These are resources and locations you can come to relive that stress and check off those items on your to-do list this break! Remember to follow the COVID guidelines and keep 6 ft away from each other during the break. Make sure that if you are not feeling well; make the choice to stay in and help reduce the rate of COVID. For more information on wellness and relaxation resources visit wellness.sfsu.edu. For more information for students facing housing or food insecurity visit basicneeds.sfsu.edu!

Author: Elia Azazel

As I considered doing yoga, my thoughts were: “Where do I start? How do I start? What do I need?” Yoga is a method for relaxing your body, mind, and spirit, but for beginners, it can be overwhelming to get into. Money was a big factor that prevented me from looking into yoga. If you find yourself in need of financial support the Basic Needs Emergency Funds is a resource that can help you out! At the time, I was too afraid to start yoga because my perception of it was that I needed an expensive mat and accessories, and paid lessons to get the “proper yoga experience”. However, I found out that yoga is a lot more financially accessible than I thought! I’m not a yoga expert, but as a beginner here are my answers to these questions!

Where do I start? How do I start?

When you search “yoga” on YouTube you are immediately overwhelmed with thousands of free yoga instructors. Not only that, but there are so many different types of yoga, it’s hard to know which video to click on which can be really difficult to navigate through as a beginner. It’s not enough to subscribe to one yoga instructor because many of them delve into a variety of yoga. Yoga instructors on YouTube are aware of this barrier and title their videos in a way that is more accessible to beginners!

The first thing you want to do is ask yourself what kind of yoga you are looking for. Are you looking for fitness yoga that requires a lot of movement? Are you looking for yoga that focuses on meditation and stillness? Are you looking for yoga for your back pain or maybe meditation for sleep? Once you’ve identified your goal, you can type in keywords into the YouTube search bar and find the video you’re looking for!

As an example, here’s some key words I have searched on YouTube:

  • “Yoga for back pain”
  • “Yoga for upper body strength”
  • “5 minute yoga”
  • “Yoga to stretch whole body”

What do I need? Do I have to spend money?

To start, no you do not have to buy anything special to start yoga! This is definitely something I was concerned about as someone who was not sure how often I would do yoga and did not want to spend money for it. The materials you need will vary depending on the type of yoga you want to do, but the cool thing is that you can find alternatives to yoga accessories with common materials at home! Yoga videos will typically let you know in the beginning of the video what materials you will need, so do not worry about needing to know what you require beforehand.

In general, you will need a good amount of space to move your body. Having space to do yoga can be difficult if you do not have stable housing. Providing Assistance To Housing Solutions (PATHS) is designed to assist unhoused and students at risk of losing their housing with resources, support, and guidance!

Yoga Mat

Some yoga positions will not require a mat, but for those yoga positions that require you to sit or position your body on a hard surface, you’ll want something to cushion your body for more comfort. If you do not have an exercise mat some alternatives are towels and thick blankets. For towels I recommend folding it or layering for more cushion.

Blocks

Yoga blocks are small, sturdy blocks used in poses that support your back, head, hands, and hips. Again, yoga videos will let you know when you require this for the yoga session. Some alternatives for this are firm pillows and folded thick blankets.

Bolsters

Bolsters are bigger than blocks, but the alternative is typically the same. Firm pillows and folded blankets work as an alternative, but a really good suggestion is to use the removable cushions from your couch.

Yoga Belt or Strap

Yoga belts and straps are typically used in positions to stretch parts of your body. A regular belt, scarf, tie, or even a sock can work as an alternative!

Personal Yoga Instructor Recommendations

All of these YouTube instructors have really chill vibes and a calming voice which is essential for the relaxing yoga that I need. On top of themed playlists such as yoga to do in the morning or yoga for mental health, their channels have useful playlists. Some channels are categorized by length and style. Additionally, some have playlists categorized for beginners, intermediate, and advanced yoga!

Part of being mindful with your body, mind, and spirit is reducing stress. It can be difficult to manage your stress when you do not have consistent access to food, and stable housing and money. The Food+Shelter+Success team at Health Promotion and Wellness has a variety of resources for free food, housing assistance, and economic support at your disposal! You can read more information at our home page.

Author: Yazmin Hernandez Luna

Every year, college students spend on average $1,200 on textbooks and supplies for an academic school year and the cost of textbooks has been increasing for the past 30 years. The textbooks required for our courses are essential in succeeding academically, but the cost of textbooks can place a student in a sticky situation wondering if it’s worth purchasing. As a student, I have explored numerous sites and found two websites where I can obtain my textbooks for free!

Disclaimer: I recommend using the two websites if your device has Anti-Virus protection. 

Z-Library provides a variety of books & articles for free in PDF form. The book can be searched using the book's ISBN or for a better search use the Title of the book.

Library Genesis is a file-sharing site with journal articles, general books, textbooks, images, comics, and magazines in PDF form for free. Simply enter the author, book title, or subject into the search bar, find & download the textbook. Once the textbook is found, click on the title than on the new redirected page, click on the title again, and press the “Get” link to download.

Some of our textbooks might not be available on Z-library and Library Genesis, but that’s okay! Textbook Nova, Slugbooks, and Chegg are alternative resources for buying or renting textbooks at a great discounted price. Our SFSU Library is a great source for searching for books and recommends websites that may have the book you are looking for. Purchasing and/or renting books can affect a student’s budget. If you are in need of financial assistance, I encourage you to check out Food + Shelter + Success economic support or the Hope Crisis Fund, a fund that assists students financially to stay on track with their academic success. 

Author: Elia Azazel

As I grow older, I learn more and more tips and tricks about buying, storing, and cooking food. My freezer used to be very empty, but I’ve become more aware of how useful my freezer can be for storing food because it saves me time, food, and money. Before my fresh produce starts to go bad, I can save it by putting it in the fridge! This lets me make the most out of the money I spend on food. This blogpost is a list of ways you can use your freezer to make your fresh food last longer!

A general tip to know is that if you wash the food beforehand, make sure you dry it thoroughly so that there is not any excess ice attached to the food. 

Freeze Leftovers / Meal Prep

This is the most useful method for me because I sometimes want a cooked meal, but do not have a lot of time to cook. What I typically do is cook a large amount so I can freeze the leftovers in small meal portions. When I want to use frozen food, I take it out from my freezer and place it in my refrigerator the night before to give it time to thaw. You can freeze soup, rice, ground beef, and more! But DO NOT immediately put steaming hot food into the freezer, as this can lower the temperature of the freezer or other items next to the hot food, which could cause surrounding food to partially thaw and refreeze. Cool it down in the fridge overnight first. Small portions of hot food can go directly into the fridge. To quickly and safely cool large batches of hot food, separate it into shallow containers. Refrigerate or freeze within 2 hours.

Storing frozen food in Ziploc bags is the easiest and most efficient way of doing this. You need to freeze food in small portions, and Ziploc bags are perfect for that. Make sure you remove as much air from the bags as possible! (Tip: Reuse your Ziploc bags by washing them after using them!)

In terms of freezing and storing liquid meals like soup, what I do is freeze them flat. Once they are solid, I can stack them on top of each other or line them like books on a shelf. This makes storing meals easier and more compact. 

Meat

Meat is very tricky and I recommend looking into it a little more before doing it. But I wanted to touch on it briefly to give you insight on how useful it is for me! Because I put ground beef in a lot of my meals and cooking raw meat takes a lot of time, I cook a large amount and store small portions in my freezer. I wrap handfuls of ground beef in saran wrap so that when I need to defrost some, it is already proportionate to the amount I need for my meal. 

You can freeze both cooked meat and raw meat. Do not refreeze meat that has been defrosted and left outside of the refrigerator for 2 hours because they will be vulnerable to getting bacteria. However, if food is thawed in the refrigerator you can still refreeze it, but some of the quality will be lost. Freeze leftovers within 3-4 days. Do not refreeze any food left outside of the refrigerator for longer than 2 hours. 

Fresh Fruit

If stored properly you can freeze fruits for a year! This is especially great for fruits you miss when they’re out of season. Wash your fruits, dry them, and slice them before putting them in the freezer. To prevent the cut fruit from sticking together, you can line the slices on a baking sheet or cutting board and let them freeze. Once they’re solid you can transfer them into a Ziploc bag or sealed container. I also use this cutting and freezing method for vegetables like carrots and squash! 

Fresh Vegetables

Freezing raw vegetables is great for me especially because I sometimes don’t get around to eating them before they start to go bad. Vegetables can be frozen as they are or in slices. For some vegetables, it’s better, but not required, to blanch them before freezing. Blanching is boiling or steaming the vegetable for 30 seconds to 10 minutes depending on the type and proportions of the vegetable. After blanching them, cool them, pat them dry, and freeze them. For more detailed help on blanching, here are two sites that I found very useful.

Blanching Chart 1

Blanching Chart 2 

I really, really find freezing food to be extremely helpful, especially during the pandemic because it lets me go outside less frequently. Before I would accidentally let my food go bad and I would be frustrated with the loss of a meal and money, but using these methods let me save my food before that happens. 

Want to try these freezing methods? Why not try it with free food! Food+Shelter+Success can connect you to resources that can get you free groceries, free grocery money, and free meals! Find out how on our website!

Additional resource

Refrigerator and freezer storage time frame chart 

Author: Yazmin Hernandez Luna

As students, we are always trying to be cautious of our budget which can make the cost of buying healthy food unsettling. Paying our bills is expensive and sometimes it can feel like spending money to eat healthier isn’t an option. I’ve had my fair share of eating unhealthy foods for a long period of time before learning what foods are healthy and fit my budget. When I first began eating healthy, I had no idea of which foods fit my budget and were nutritious for my body. In this blog, I want to help other students by sharing my top five budget-friendly foods that helped me in my journey!

  1. Oatmeal - Provides health-supporting benefits such as fiber that supports heart and gut health and can help you feel full and satisfied for longer. Tip: For tastier oatmeal, I include strawberries, bananas, and blueberries with a hint of Peanut Butter.
  2. Eggs - Are one of the few food sources of Vitamin D! They are a quick and easy way to add protein to meals. Tip: A dozen count is cheaper at Target! Add egg to avocado toast.
  3. Lentils - Is a plant-based source of protein, containing fiber that supports a healthy gut. Tip: When lentils are boiling, crack an egg and cook until served.
  4. Brown Rice - A few cents expensive than white rice, but it is very healthy. It contains more fiber than white rice and can help you stay fuller over a long period of time.
  5. Chicken - Consuming chicken is beneficial because it is rich in protein and good for the heart! It is a source of lean protein for those who choose to consume meat. I like to add paprika, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper for seasoning. Tip: Chicken Breast is cheaper at Target ($8-10) compared to Safeway ($15 & higher).

Being a student is expensive but these are a great start to eating healthy meals. Making new changes takes time to adapt, but if you stick with it these changes can benefit your wellbeing.

To learn more about how to stretch your food dollars, Check out the Food + Shelter + Success Affordable Grocery Stores List and Calfresh, a program that gives qualified applicants free money for food. To learn more about healthy eating on a budget and other cooking and nutrition services explore the HPW Nutrition Health Education programs.

Sources: 

https://www.eatright.org/   [Oatmeal, Lentils] 

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/  [Brown Rice, Eggs, Chicken]

Author: KC Agramon

Sitting behind a desk for more than 2 hours can be exhausting. Zoom fatigue is real, and sometimes all you need is fresh air and great scenery to gain that momentum of doing your schoolwork. Before COVID, I did most of my homework at the library. Now that, that isn’t an option I had to find creative ways to get my homework done. Having access to WiFi is a basic need that every student should have. Without WiFi, it can be harder to access assignments and take zoom calls. 

Finding the right place to do homework could be challenging, and for students who are experiencing housing insecurity, it can feel impossible. When COVID started, I created a workspace near my window where I feel like I could get most of my work done. This worked for a few weeks, but suddenly I found myself sitting behind my desk all day. Self-care is important to me and I decided to listen to how I felt; I knew there has to be a better way! Because of this, I had to find other ways. For me, getting my work done outside my home was self-care, for students who are living in their vehicles or couch-surfing it can be the only option. Here are some life hacks on how to access free WiFi around SF; while keeping the social distance guidelines. 

San Francisco has free wireless internet access for everyone. WiFi services vary depending on selected areas and parks throughout San Francisco. When you want to connect to the WiFi network all you need to click on the “#SFWiFi” and further instructions will be given. Locations that provide Free Wi-Fi varies around the city. Some places that I go and do my homework at are the Marina green, Mission Dolores Park, Hamilton rec center, etc. Another option for students who do not have a stable and safe place to engage with their schoolwork online is to book a room reservation at the SFSU library

Now, here are some guides on how to use public WIFI in a safe and secure way. So, what does secured, and unsecured networks mean? Open network lets you log on without authentication details. This means all you have to do is click connect; I advise you to refrain from this option or use it for a short time. The other WiFi network requires you to enter information such as phone numbers or email addresses. An example of this could be a needed username and password before getting WiFi access. 

Here are some ways to be safe while using public WiFi: 

  • Stay away from using internet banking, online shopping, or anything involves financial data. 
  • Stay in secure websites 
  • Use VPN
  • Make sure your firewall is on and updated 

Finding creative ways to do homework can be difficult. Remember to listen to yourself and take breaks when you need to. Looking for WiFi access can be hard; I hope this blog gave you options for a new space to do homework or a new place to take a break. Keep in mind that you should still be cautious while using secure or insecure WiFi! 

Author: Elia Azazel

The idea of growing vegetables in my apartment sounds healthy and cost-effective. Sometimes I only get 4-5 vegetables at the store but it can add up to $15.00-20.00 all together! By growing vegetables, I could save myself trips to the grocery store and money while learning to incorporate vegetables into my daily meals. But I already struggle to keep my succulents alive so I often felt too discouraged to try. I was shocked to find out from my housemate that you can easily grow vegetables on your patio or by a window! For this blog post, I’ve asked my housemate (and the internet) some questions and tips on keeping your plants alive! 

E (me): “What vegetables are best for beginners?” 

L (my housemate): “Beans grow super fast! I started off with sugar daddy snap peas. Squash is easy to grow for beginners, and so is any herb like thyme, sage, and basil. If they’re outdoor and on your patio make sure they have direct sunlight. If they’re by a window, don’t put it directly in front of the window but near it so that the sun and heat don’t dry up the plant.” 

If you’re like me and don’t really eat herbs, you might not see the appeal of growing them because you have no idea how to use them when you cook. After some reading, I found out that herbs are nutritious and perfect for adding flavor! You can easily add them to any meal. For example, I like to add thyme and basil onto my frozen pizzas, and my housemate likes to add them to their soup.

E: “Any tips on watering? I had a lot of trouble with watering in general.”

L: “Water weekly for both indoor and outdoor. Listen to your plant. If you’re overwatering the tips of the leaves turn yellow and if they’re underwatered the leaves start to droop and look sad. And on really hot days give them a little extra water to drink.

I follow the finger rule. Stick the top-notch of your finger into the dirt and if it’s still wet, don’t water it. If you do overwater, give them time to dry out. But don’t wait too long because they still need to be watered.”

E: “Is there any difference between growing a starter plant or starting from seeds?”

L: “Starting with seeds is much cheaper like $1.00-4.00 (which you can buy with CalFresh!). It’s intimidating, but it isn’t as difficult as it sounds. If you’re planting with seeds, know that seeds need more water. They need to be moist more often, and make sure they have direct sunlight.”

Additional tips:

Make sure to get pots that are big enough for the plant to grow into. You can buy pots for ~$1.00 a pot at The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, or any store with a home improvement section. When buying a pot, a good rule is to match the space of its height with root space or replant if it’s growing too big. A common beginner mistake is getting pots that are too small.

You can start seeds in solo cups with holes in the bottom and then replant them into pots.

Pay attention to the plant, look at photos of what it’s going to look like so you know what to expect and you don’t harvest too late.

I do not like eating vegetables, but I’ve noticed that there’s something about growing your own that makes me more inclined to eat them. I’ve certainly become used to eating vegetables a little more than before, whether it’s adding spinach to my sandwich or adding squash to my pasta. Growing my own vegetables gives me a sense of fulfillment and saves me some money!

While waiting for your vegetables to grow, why not check out the resources Food+Shelter+Success has to offer that can get you free food! We have Emergency Meal Cards, CalFresh help clinics, Gator Groceries, and more.

Resources:

Author: Yazmin Hernandez Luna

When was the last time you paid attention to your breathing and gave your body the chance to relax? Many of us may be unable to recall because it is easy to ignore our needs and forget to practice simple acts of self-care like breathing. When we stress about certain events happening in our lives, we can forget to live in the present moment.

As a first-generation college student at SFSU, I’ve had my fair share of struggles and uncertainty, many surrounding food and housing insecurity. The stress of constantly thinking about my next meal and/or if I will have enough to pay next month’s rent has been overwhelming and has affected my schoolwork at times. When I am feeling stressed or uncertain, one thing that has really helped ground has been meditating. Meditating can help center you and reduce stress, which is important for college students. Research has demonstrated that academic-related stress can decrease motivation, increase the risk of dropout, and the risk of mental health challenges. Now I am not saying that meditating will be the solution to all our problems, but it is simple, easy, and can work towards positive health outcomes and academic success. Not sure if meditation is for you? Check out the benefits and give this super easy meditation a try this week!

Benefits of Meditation

A simple 5-minute meditation every day can help ease your mind and body. The benefits of meditation consist of:

  • Reduces stress levels, anxiety, depression, lower blood pressure, and cortisol levels
  • Helps you learn to live in the moment in training the brain to stop focusing on past traumas/future stresses
  • Helps sharpen the mind as we age
  • Strengthens the neural circuits that we use the most, pruning away the least used connections
  • Can improve memory, self-awareness, and goal setting
  • Helps with sleep
  • Hypo Metabolic State allows the body to rejuvenate

5-Minute Meditation

Anyone can do mediation! Give this 5-minute meditation a try this week! Here are a few tips:

  • Meditation can be challenging at first but practice makes perfect! Practice frequently to build-up endurance and confidence
  • Find a comfortable position [Sitting down on a chair or laying on the floor/bed]
  • Begin by taking slower and deeper breaths; Inhale through your nose & hold for a few seconds then exhale through your mouth and hold for a few seconds and keep repeating
  • Tune into your body and notice any feeling of tension or tightness and allow your body to relax in those parts
  • Does your mind wander? That’s ok and common. Try bringing your attention to the body by picturing one thing that made your smile or thankful today & rest at that moment
  • Smile if you want, allow it!
  • When you are ready, come back to your awareness on your own time and open your eyes
  • Lastly, enjoy the rest of your day!

Meditation is the time to connect with oneself. Be patient, be kind, and don’t forget to live in the present moment!