For several years, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has been part of a collaborative effort working to enroll eligible individuals in the CalFresh program.
In both Solano and Contra Costa counties, there are individuals who are not aware that they qualify for the assistance CalFresh provides. Federal funds that could be used to provide healthy food to our neighbors (and be spent in our local grocery stores) are not reaching all the people who need help.
In our efforts to enroll more qualified people in the program, we have partnered with other organizations that share our vision of a community that can purchase healthy food.
At the end of June, we joined forces with a group that created a CalFresh Express day in San Pablo. The Contra Costa Employment and Human Services Department agreed to set up a mobile CalFresh office at Davis Park.
First Five and the Multi-Faith Hunger Action Coalition worked to help distribute flyers at Food Bank distribution sites. They also handed them out to other community agencies throughout West Contra Costa County to help inform low-income people about this opportunity.
This outreach effort helped ensure that those who came to this event knew what documentation they needed to bring so their application could move forward. With the work of committed community groups, we were ready for a major one-day effort.
What took place on CalFresh Express day was beyond anything I thought we would accomplish. The workers from Contra Costa County did an amazing job. They came out of the office space to talk to people in line to get a sense of their situation and check the documentation. Individuals were given a number and the worker took the material inside where a preliminary assessment was done. Next, the attendees were called inside so they could speak to an eligibility worker. After being interviewed by the worker, the applicant was informed as to whether or not they were eligible to receive CalFresh benefits.
This joint effort among county workers and community and faith-based organizations processed the CalFresh applications of nearly one hundred people.
This CalFresh Express effort was an incredible day and offered even more than just an enrollment opportunity.
Clients were able to go the Food Bank’s Community Produce Program truck and pick up six different kinds of fresh produce. Cabbage, carrots and oranges were some of the ingredients they received for a coleslaw recipe that was provided by that UC Cooperative Extension. They were there passing out recipes and other nutritional information. In addition, the West Contra Costa School District brought Summer Lunches to eligible children.
It was inspiring to see these organizations, which share a concern for accessibility to healthy food, working together to serve the community.
The CalFresh Express day made a difference in the lives of our neighbors by providing food and government assistance to people who want to be part of a strong and healthy community.