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SNAP Helps More Than 1.5 Million Working Californians

June 26, 2017

SNAP, CalFresh in California, plays a crucial role in helping workers in low paying jobs afford a basic diet in California. Each year between 2013 and 2015, an average of 1.5 million California workers lived in households that participated in SNAP in the last year.  

Unfortunately, for far too many Californians, work doesn’t provide enough income for them to feed their families. Many earn wages so low that a full-time worker doesn’t earn enough to lift a family out of poverty. Low-wage jobs also often have irregular schedules, where the number of hours changes frequently, and often lack crucial benefits such as paid sick leave. Many of these jobs have high turnover rates, so workers in low-wage jobs experience periods of unemployment at higher rates than higher-paid workers.

Because many workers struggle to feed their families in California, they often turn to CalFresh to help supplement low wages, smooth out income fluctuations due to shifting schedules or help sustain them during periods of unemployment. 

In California, close to one-fifth of working CalFresh participants are employed in service jobs, most commonly as maintenance workers, housekeeping cleaners, food prep workers and servers, cooks, and nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, this data shows. An additional one-fifth of working participants work in either sales jobs, most commonly as cashiers or retail salespersons, or in office and administrative support positions, largely as customer service representatives or stock clerks. 

These jobs typically have low wages. For example, the top five occupations among Californians participating in CalFresh have average hourly wages far below the state average of $27.33 in 2016, and many with wages low enough to be in the bottom quarter, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data: cashiers ($12.18); personal care aides ($12.09); cooks ($12.82); retail salespersons ($14.33); and maids and housekeeping cleaners ($13.49). 

In some occupations, CalFresh participants make up a significant share of all workers. For example, nearly one-third of agricultural workers in California report participating in CalFresh, a sad irony as California’s vibrant food and farming sector feeds the nation, while far too many in our state struggle with poverty and hunger. 

In sum, for over 1.5 million working Californians, CalFresh responds to low wages and job instability by providing workers and their families with supplementary income to buy food and lift themselves and their families out of poverty. 

Construction worker by Darren Smith/Flickr Creative Commons


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