December 7, 2023


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Food Diary: How a 24-Year-Old Medical Student Eats With EBT/Food Stamps in San Francisco, CA

2 min read

6:56 p.m. I have a Hinge date tonight! Ah! It’s a second date with this guy who my friends and I call “GPT guy” because he works in AI. Before I head out, I have a chewy chocolate and peanut butter protein bar (previously bought from Trader Joe’s, $3.49 for a pack of six). I always prepare for the possibility that I’ll be splitting the bill, so it’s in my best interest to eat beforehand so that “I’m not that hungry.”

7:05 p.m. I meet up with “GPT guy” at Ebisu, a sushi restaurant. The space is simple, small, and cozy. We share a sake flight and two specialty rolls: a Dexter Carter (salmon, avocado, shiso, tobiko, and shrimp with sliced lemon) and a Family Affair (tuna, avocado, albacore tuna, yellow onion, tobiko, and scallion topped with aioli). The Dexter Carter roll really stands out: The thinly sliced lemon on top is refreshingly acidic in contrast to the richness of the salmon, while the tobiko adds a delightful crunch. On the other hand, the Family Affair roll is pleasant and satisfactory but more forgettable, kind of like our conversation. After we wrap up dinner, he suggests we get dessert so I bring us to a nearby frozen yogurt shop, Easy Breezy. I get a mix of cookies and cream and vanilla froyo with mochi topping. He pays for dinner ($64.32) while I pay for our froyos ($9.44).

Tuesday total: $9.44


9:57 a.m. I’m running late! I scarf down a banana and take a Trader Joe’s chewy chocolate and peanut butter protein bar to eat in class.

12:43 p.m. Half of the fun of feeding myself as a medical student is trying to finesse as much free food as I can. At school, we can often get free lunch by attending lunchtime talks, but today I head over to Retool, a tech startup in the city, with my friend, a software engineer who works there. Like many companies in the area, Retool gives free meals to its employees every day and today is Build Your Own Poke, an office favorite—so much so that the ahi tuna is out when we get there! Instead I opt for a poke bowl with pineapple teriyaki tofu, sweet potatoes, edamame, mixed greens, and roasted gailan.

After lunch, I settle into one of the open desks at the office and catch up on recorded lectures as I enjoy some of the office’s eclectic snacks, including an Olive Garden Andes mint chocolate, a Rip Van wafel, and a canned green tea. I also grab a premade wrap and a bag of chips to eat later. It’s nice to be the beneficiary to tech’s high salaries every once in a while.

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