Why CalFresh Matters

The fight to end hunger is a multi-dimensional battle that requires a variety of tools. While direct food distribution may be the most visible piece of the Food Bank’s proverbial arsenal, we also work every day to connect people with state and federal programs that empower them to meet their household’s nutritional needs. 

CalFresh provides direct financial support to help low-income households increase their food-buying power and access healthy food. It is the single most effective way to prevent hunger and a crucial piece of strengthening our society’s safety net. 

Through outreach programs and direct contact, the Food Bank’s bilingual CalFresh team helps people determine if they are eligible for benefits and works with them to navigate the county’s application process. Last year the Food Bank helped about 1,500 households apply for CalFresh. Once an applicant’s eligibility is confirmed, benefits are loaded onto a plastic card, similar to a debit card, that can be used in stores, online, and at most farmers’ markets. 

As inflation reaches a 40-year high, many people are having a harder time paying for groceries, and even those enrolled in CalFresh are feeling the pinch of higher prices, as their benefits aren’t going as far. While every Californian may not need or qualify for CalFresh, it is crucial that we all understand its benefits and the role it plays in strengthening food security. 

To highlight the most critical elements of this life-changing benefit, we asked our team to share what they wish everyone knew about CalFresh:

  • CalFresh is for everyone—employed and unemployed individuals, families, seniors, students, people with disabilities, those experiencing homelessness, active and non-active military personnel. CalFresh is for people with low income who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table.
  • Millions of Californians may be eligible to receive CalFresh but don’t know the benefits exist or that they qualify. The USDA sets aside funds for this program, and when eligible people don’t participate, millions of dollars go unused. We want to help make sure qualified people get the food they need. 
  • CalFresh benefits conserve Food Bank resources, which allows us to focus on being a supplemental, rather than primary, source of food. CalFresh recipients are still eligible to attend Food Bank distributions. 
  • CalFresh stimulates the economy. An Oct. 2020 study from the Public Policy Institute of California says, recipients “tend to spend their benefits quickly and use the cash freed up by their benefits on other essentials.” In addition, a recent national analysis finds that a $1 billion increase in SNAP benefits would raise GDP by $1.54 billion during recessions.
  • Vigilance is needed to protect these vital programs. Over the past few years, the Food Bank has advocated against at least four proposed cuts to nutrition benefits
  • CalFresh gives recipients the freedom to purchase groceries their household needs and enjoys when it is convenient. That means they’re not on the Food Bank’s timetable, and benefits can reach people who are unable to attend food distributions.

Benefits like CalFresh have dramatically reduced the extent of severe hunger in our country, and they continue to help many Americans in need. Join us in supporting this essential program so that even more people can enjoy the security of fresh, healthy food.

If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about applying for CalFresh, visit foodbankccs.org/calfresh or call 925-603-3316.