In LA County alone, it is projected that there will be 243,000 newly eligible households. The majority of those who now qualify are adults 60 and older. On June 1, 33,000 people enrolled over the phone. The average number is 6,000.
“While this CalFresh expansion will not fill the meal gap for all vulnerable people in LA County, it’s definitely a step in the right direction and will contribute to the overall well being not only of the recipients but of our entire community.” -Michael Flood, President and CEO of the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank
CalFresh is California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an income and employment based federal program designed to improve access to food for low-income households and individuals.
California’s SNAP enrollment rate is among the lowest in the country. In LA County, the enrollment rate is less than 65 percent while the national enrollment rate is 85 percent.
Prior to the change in LA County, approximately 500,000 households, representing 1.1 million people, receive CalFresh benefits. 62 percent of those receiving assistance in our community are children.
New CalFresh rules, which took effect in June 1, mean that an additional 243,000 households in LA County who currently receive SSI are newly eligible for CalFresh. The enrollment process has changed significantly to accommodate enrollment for these residents with disabilities and seniors with mobility issues.
LA County DPSS has established a Call Center dedicated to taking CalFresh applications over the phone at 866-613-3777. This service is available Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. More often than not, the application is processed on the same day.
Applicants can also visit GetCalFresh.org.
CalFresh benefits in LA County total around $170 million. Every dollar in CalFresh benefits results in $1.7 worth of local economic activity, so CalFresh accounts for $3.6 billion annually in our community.
In California, 1.3 million residents are currently enrolled in SSI, and LA County is home to more SSI recipients than any other part of the state. The CalFresh benefit for new SSI participants will range from $15 to $192 per month. If the 243,000 newly eligible residents enroll for CalFresh in June, it would not only mean increased access to vital resources for these households but approximately $53.7 million worth of economic activity per month in LA County.
While this CalFresh expansion means increased access to nutritious food for thousands of vulnerable people throughout our community, it is important to remember that the average recipient’s benefits are insufficient and usually run our by the third week of the month. Some households receive as little as $15 per month. Also, benefits do not increase during the summer months when the need for assistance increases significantly for families with children who lose access to school meals while on break.
Derek Polka is the Policy & Research Manager at the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank. He has more than 5 years of nonprofit experience, including 2.5 years at the San Francisco Marin Food Bank working in CalFresh Outreach. He earned his Masters in Public Administration with an emphasis in Food Security and Global Governance from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey.
The Food Bank works to fill the meal gap for children and their families all year long. You can support this work by making a donation. $23 per month provides enough meals for a child for a whole year.