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Alliance to Transform CalFresh

Progress to Date:

 Changes to CalFresh operations that boost  participation resulted from these ATC efforts:

  • Regularly collaborating with USDA Food & Nutrition Service, California Department of Social Services and 17 County Advocate Program groups across the state.
  • Hosting webinars on: 
    • dual enrollment strategies
    • verification 
  • Publishing reports on:
    • telephonic/electronic signature
    • churn
    • contact centers
    • dual enrollment 

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.

Recent Accomplishments

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

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 andrew@cafoodbanks.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 andrew@cafoodbanks.org.



One Stop Health Nutrition – the Alliance’s on-line toolkit to boost dual participation in CalFresh & Medi-Cal.

Fact Sheet: The Affordable Care Act Opportunity for CalFresh 

Fact Sheet: A Statewide CalFresh Participation Plan 

Fact Sheet: Consumer’s Checklist for CalFresh

More publications, webinars, and news stories can be found at The Alliance To Transform CalFresh as well as CAFB’s YouTube channel

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