Like other parts of the country, the Central Coast has poverty and social challenges, especially when the cost of living and slow wage growth are taken into the equation. The CalFresh program is expanding and beginning June 1, 2019, the benefits will be available to individuals on SSI (Supplemental Security Income)
That was the backdrop for last week’s CalFresh Forum in Watsonville, organized by Second Harvest and Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. A hard-hitting lineup of advocates, program administrators, elected officials, and more lauded the program’s success in fighting hunger, explained the economic benefits it brings to the community, honored hard-working CalFresh Champions, and educated the audience of close to 200 on strategies for educating and enrolling more people in need, including those on SSI, and ensuring its continued success.
Key Note Speaker, Tim Brattan, CEO of the Grey Bears gave an eye-opening look at the struggles that Seniors face in Santa Cruz County and how the new SSI expansion is going to benefit that population. Other speakers included Terra Crowl of Jacob’s Heart Children’s Cancer Support Services, Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs-California Association of Food Banks, and many more. Attendees also took part in Zumba and making their own home-made, nutritious energy drinks.
CalFresh helps low-income households meet their food and nutrition needs and is a key piece of the social safety net, yet California has one of the lowest participation rates in SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal program). Santa Cruz County must increase its outreach efforts in order to maintain this benefit as well as continue to educate the community on the benefits expansion coming this summer.
There are many reasons food security and health are important to overall community health—hungry children can’t learn, hungry adults can’t work, and the harmful social effects ripple outwards. And it’s also a matter of social justice.
What’s more, when residents do not claim the food benefits they are entitled to under the program, the funds remain unclaimed. So not only do people in need miss out on needed food and nutrition, but the county misses out on the resulting economic benefits, which are estimated at over $50 million.
As Joel Campos, Second Harvest’s Director of Community Outreach, noted, “When CalFresh recipients purchase food in markets and grocery stores, it begins a chain reaction of economic activity, from grocers to farmers, distributors, workers, vendors, and more.”
CalFresh is one of those programs with such proven effectiveness, efficiency, and economic responsiveness that Second Harvest and our skilled Outreach team works tirelessly to help it reach its full potential for the people of Santa Cruz County.
“Second Harvest Food Bank’s CalFresh Forum is just one more sign of Santa Cruz County’s long-standing commitment to CalFresh excellence,” said Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs for the California Association of Food Banks. “In fact, it is so successful that other counties are looking to replicate this model.”
For more information please visit: www.thefoodbank.org/calfresh