This week’s member highlight is Banco de alimentos Redwood Empire. Located in Santa Rosa, REFB has been serving communities in Sonoma, Lake, Mendocino, Humboldt, and Del Norte Counties since 1987.
For their Food Connections team, COVID-19 was a huge transition, Rigoberto Morales Mendoza, Food Connections Supervisor, oversees this program, which involves CalFresh outreach and application assistance. Usually face-to-face, now most outreach occurs remotely. This can involve fielding a high volume of phone calls, utilizing social media, updating the website, and even super fun videos like this one!
The Food Connections team has tried to make up for lost outreach opportunities by taking advantage of drive-through food distributions, home deliveries, and their Senior Basket program — using these brief interactions with clients to either share updates, answer questions, or provide informational flyers.
The greatest way they help out clients, says Morales Mendoza, is by all of the one-on-one follow-up communications the team provides. This is made possible by a lot of collaboration and innovation: REFB has a partnership with the County that allows two-way communication regarding clients’ CalFresh application status and have also implemented the Oasis Insight system to get accurate and secure insight into their clientele, provide strategic outreach, and more. Clients are provided their own ID card, which does not have to be tied to their name if they so choose, and the card is scanned during various touch points in order to track progress as well as keep client information and application statuses safe. You can learn about it here!
There was less pushback than we expected with this program, and even when there is pushback, once we explain everything to clients, they understand and trust us. We have built a strong relationship and a foundation of trust with our community.
REFB is using technology to make every step of the process easier for clients. When assisting with CalFresh applications, REFB staff and clients can use a texting platform in order to share documents like paystubs, or other information needed for their application. Senior living facilities can even use the texting tools in order to submit information for their residents.
This May, for CalFresh Awareness Month, REFB partnered with the County, Petaluma Bounty, Redwood Health Coalition, and Catholic Charities to create weekly CalFresh Awareness social media posts like the one on the left — specifically reaching out to families, older adults, and students.
For Rigo, CAFB supports his team’s work because “information is easy to find, and trainings and updates are amazing ways to tell my team, ‘hey this is what’s happening.’” You can find CAFB’s toolkit for promoting CalFresh on social media (in English and Spanish) here — just because CalFresh Awareness Month is over, it doesn’t mean that it’s not still a vital resource for Californians!
All photos and quotes courtesy Redwood Empire Food Bank.
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