Originally posted on the Vacaville Reporter: Access and affordability of nutritious food items are two common and significant obstacles for many people in our region. CalFresh, formerly known as food stamps, increases access by giving recipients monthly benefits to purchase groceries.
Recipients of CalFresh are limited to only purchasing food with the benefits they receive. They cannot buy soap, toilet paper or toothpaste. Debates have been going on for some time about limiting the type purchases being made with CalFresh benefits; for example, no soda. A recent survey by California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) took the time to ask recipients their thoughts on this debate. The survey showed that recipients think CalFresh helps them eat healthfully. At the Food Bank we hear from countless recipients who share that CalFresh allows their grocery dollars to go further. We are told, simply being able to get milk is a huge relief.
According to CFPA, eighty percent of those surveyed indicated that they were aware that sugary drinks are bad for your health and eighty-seven percent of the parents surveyed think it is important to limit how many sweetened beverages their children consume. However, when I think that for the price of one gallon of milk, four to five 2-liter sodas could be purchased instead, I realize it is not easy for these families to make the healthier purchases.
Interestingly, nearly two thirds of the CalFresh recipients surveyed said they would be in favor of limiting beverage purchases if that action was taken at the same time an increase in benefits was implemented. If they had more benefits they could afford healthier options such as 100% juice and milk rather than soda.
I believe this survey shows us that we need to continue to look at proposed changes to CalFresh from the point of view of the millions of Californians who are struggling to make ends meet and trying to lead healthy, productive lives.
If anyone is interested in learning more about CalFresh or needs help applying for benefits, please contact the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano toll-free at 855-309-FOOD.