State and local leaders, advocates, and policy makers came together on Friday, May 18, for the 7th Annual CalFresh Forum, which is held in Watsonville each May and is hosted by Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department.
California has the highest rate of child poverty in the country, and yet one of the lowest rates of enrollment in nutrition assistance. Hungry children have difficulty learning, hungry adults have difficulty working, and new studies are showing a high prevalence of food insecurity and hunger on California’s college campuses, especially among low-income students.
The CalFresh program, (formerly known as food stamps), is the largest source of nutrition assistance in the state but currently only 71% of eligible individuals in Santa Cruz County participate in program. And, unfortunately, when the funds that are allocated for nutrition assistance go unclaimed, the money does not revert to county or state budgets.
“If everyone who is qualified (but not currently enrolled) signed up for CalFresh, Santa Cruz County would enjoy an extra estimated $50 million in economic benefits.”
– Joel Campos, Director of Community Outreach, Second Harvest
Attendees at the CalFresh Forum are working collaboratively to help community organizations increase participation in the program by enrolling those who qualify, including families, senior citizens, and a growing number of students. When individuals are healthy, the community grows strong.
“CalFresh provides a system of care for children and families that ensures access to nutritious food,” says MariaElena de la Garza, Executive Director of the Community Action Board of Santa Cruz County and the event’s Keynote speaker. “These resources directly impact the quality of life of some of our most vulnerable citizens, which, in turn, increases our community’s well-being.” she added.