Only about 60 percent of all Contra Costa residents who qualify for federal nutrition assistance, known as CalFresh in California, actually receive these benefits. CalFresh is vitally important to the health of our community, and research shows that children whose families participate in the program are less likely to be obese as adults and more likely to complete high school.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has been looking at different ways to increase participation in the CalFresh Program and came up with an innovative idea: to mail postcards to families enrolled in Medical and School Lunch programs but not yet enrolled in CalFresh. If a household qualifies for Medical or the School Lunch program, they are likely eligible for CalFresh as well. Campaigns such as this are being utilized across the country to increase enrollment in Health and Nutrition Assistance programs.
The Food Bank received funding from the John Muir/Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund to launch two direct mail campaigns to two targeted populations. In the first campaign, the Employment and Health Services Department of Contra Costa identified those individuals enrolled in Medical but not enrolled in CalFresh and mailed them CalFresh information from the Food Bank. In the second mailing, school districts in central and east Contra Costa mailed the Food Bank’s CalFresh postcards to their Free and Reduced Lunch participants.
Between the two campaigns, over 100,000 households from our community were sent postcards that alerted them to their potential eligibility. These individuals were invited to contact the Food Bank’s CalFresh Outreach team, who could help them navigate the application process. The effort targeted populations that were not previously reached and resulted in nearly 1,000 new applications.
The Food Bank is very pleased with the results of this campaign and our successful partnerships with the county and schools. The Food Bank is considering mailing CalFresh information to these same lists again this year and continuing to explore new populations to target.
-Authored by Cassie Wagner, CalFresh Outreach Manager