Progress to Date:
Changes to CalFresh operations that boost participation resulted from these ATC efforts:
Photo: Advocates from the Alliance in Sacramento to meet with the Governor's Office.
Why Transform CalFresh (food stamps)?
Simply put, California has long had one of the worst food stamp participation rates in the nation and currently has a fourth-to-last standing among states. According to the USDA’s most recent report for 2015, only 70% of eligible households are signed up for the benefits they qualify for, compared to 83% nationally.
Every day, nearly five million Californians face hunger or the fear of going hungry. CalFresh – California’s name for the federal food stamp program – is a critical support for many of those facing hunger, providing an average of $330 per household per month for groceries.
However, our State’s historically low participation rate means that over 3 million people are not receiving the $2.5 billion in federal benefits for which they qualify for food, according to the California Food Policy Advocates. This low rate of participation also means that California is losing 4.5 billion in economic activity that CalFresh usage could generate for our state and, in particular, our food and agriculture sectors.
A Bold Vision: The Alliance to Transform CalFresh
The reasons for this stubbornly low participation rate are many and complex, and anti-hunger groups had been working for years to change the situation. But the numbers just weren't’t budging. So in 2011, the SF-Marin Food Bank organized a summit of over two dozen state and national anti-hunger groups, foundations, and the USDA at the Sierra Health Foundation. Out of that forum came a newly-formed coalition dedicated to dramatically increasing the CalFresh participation rate, and convened by CAFB: the Alliance to Transform CalFresh.
The Alliance adopted the statewide goal of raising the CalFresh participation rate to at least 80% statewide by the end of 2019, with no county below 70%. While the lag in data does not provide results for this goal yet, CalFresh participation rates have increased by 19% since the Alliance's inception.
As of Spring 2017, the following progress was made to increase participation by eligible people to appropriate levels and catch up with national rates of access:
- The Alliance to Transform CalFresh released a report on the option to use a PIN number as an electronic/telephonic signature for CalFresh recertifications. The report explores models from New York City and the State of Illinois and includes recommendations for California to implement a similar model. This option can be used to expand access for people with limited ability to connect with a CalFresh office in person or through the internet, and can reduce churn for people who are likely to fall off the program at recertification by offering them an alternative option to complete a recertification over the phone.
- The Alliance to Transform CalFresh participated in the CDSS Learning Collaborative on Call Centers in California Counties. ATC shared preliminary findings from interviews with eight other call centers in five states. The preliminary findings highlighted differences in technology and capacity between large and small call centers, ways that smaller call centers could leverage their limited staff, and promising practices for using technology to manage call volume.
- A successful statewide ATC Summit brought advocates and policymakers together to discuss data-driven solutions for improving CalFresh. As a follow up to our January Summit on Dual Enrollment, the Alliance held a webinar for county administrators to further explore the ways they can use data to identify potentially eligible households and ideas to develop effective in-reach strategies.
The Alliance to Transform CalFresh
Convener: The California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) and its Executive Director, Sue Sigler
Members: CAFB, California Family Resource Association, California Food Policy Advocates, Catholic Charities of California, Los Angeles Regional Food Bank, SF-Marin Food Bank, and Western Center on Law and Poverty
Key national supporters and advisors: The USDA and its Western Region Office, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Feeding America, and the Food Research and Action Center
Funders: MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, Kaiser Permanente, Stupski Foundation, Share Our Strength, Walmart Foundation, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, and Food Research and Action Center
Contact: Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs, at 510-350-9915 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Please visit the Alliance To Transform CalFresh website to learn more about our accomplishments to date and our plans for achieving the new goal of 80% participation, with no county below 70%, by 2019. To learn about ways to support the Alliance’s efforts, please contact Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs, at 510-350-9915 or email@example.com.
One Stop Health Nutrition - the Alliance's on-line toolkit to boost dual participation in CalFresh & Medi-Cal.