Cal_FreshMay is “CalFresh Awareness Month,” a campaign to raise awareness of this important benefit which many people don’t know they’re eligible to receive. CalFresh, the federally funded program formerly called Food Stamps, helps children, families, and individuals put nutritious food on their tables each day.

In Contra Costa County, half of CalFresh recipients are children. Household hunger hurts children’s intellectual, physical and emotional development and puts them at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

For the last year, First 5 Contra Costa through the Family Economic Security Partnership has joined a group of organizations working to increase CalFresh use in the county. The coalition is led by the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano County, and includes the Contra Costa County Employment and Human Services Department (EHSD),  the Multi-Faith Action Coalition, the Ensuring Opportunity Campaign, and other community organizations.

Some progress made to increase CalFresh enrollment include:

  • Simplifying the application process by eliminating the face-to-face interview process. A telephone interview is acceptable to apply.
  • Strengthening the process between EHSD and the Food Bank to enroll people in CalFresh. Nonprofits can complete a short CalFresh referral form to pre-screen eligibility, then hand off the information for the Food Bank to complete the application.
  • Outreach efforts including a community campaign, sign-up in a day events, and mailings to targeted populations such as families with children receiving free/reduced priced lunches at school.
  • Implementing pilot projects and advocating for policy changes to make CalFresh as accessible as possible.

Data to determine if these efforts increased enrollment is not yet available. One sign of progress though is that enrollment has not declined despite the improved economy.

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