Valley Voices

CalFresh expansion can put more food on Fresno’s tables

Jerrene Richardson, a college student, began her CalFresh application at the West Fresno Family Resource Center’s annual back to school event in August.
Jerrene Richardson, a college student, began her CalFresh application at the West Fresno Family Resource Center’s annual back to school event in August. Contributed

During my college years. I worked hard every day, including weekends, yet was barely getting by. I know what it is like to have to spread out your resources, including your food, just to survive. I see people every day in my work who are doing the same thing.

That’s why it’s vital that our community take full advantage of a new opportunity for our most vulnerable people to put more food on their tables.

As of June 1, California expanded its CalFresh program, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps, to Supplemental Security Income/Supplemental Security Payment (SSI/SSP) recipients. The change means hundreds of thousands of people across California who have disabilities, and older adults who receive SSI/SSP, now are eligible for CalFresh food benefits.

That could mean an additional $15 to $192 worth of food benefits each month in the pockets of those Californians who need it most.

At Fresno Metro Ministry, we leverage the DigiBus mobile computer lab, where we have volunteers help assist clients through the process of applying for CalFresh Food. We also have bimonthly task force meetings to strategically identify ways to help relieve the county social services offices of overcrowding and reduce the number of people waiting outside in the heat. We focus our efforts to help the most in-need communities of Fresno.

We know that there is a greater need for CalFresh Food benefits in the north Fresno area, where a smaller proportion of eligible people have signed up than in other neighborhoods. Many of the older and disabled people on SSI who now are eligible for CalFresh live on a monthly budget of $931 or less. They do their best trying to spread out their limited financial resources to pay for living costs, bills and medical expenses; we see that so often, purchasing food, especially healthy and nutritious food, goes by the wayside. When applying for CalFresh Food benefits, living costs, eligible bills and approved medical expenses at or above $35 are taken into consideration and can help boost the client’s CalFresh Food benefit amount.

We have a responsibility to ensure that other members of our community are well taken care of. Not only does CalFresh Food serve that important purpose, it also helps stimulate the local economy, including local farmers. Many farmers markets accept electronic benefits transfer cards for purchases, and some offer a market match program to allow CalFresh Food recipients to receive more produce for every CalFresh Food dollar spent. This money stays in the local economy and helps everyone.

I know that without CalFresh, many people would go without food. We need to help our community reach its full potential, and I am determined to do just that. I encourage all families in California who are receiving SSI/SSP benefits to apply for CalFresh Food benefits.

How to get help

If you or someone you know wants to apply for CalFresh Food benefits, contact us at the Fresno Metro Ministry at info@fresnometmin.org. Or, go to www.GetCalFresh.org, call 1-877-847-3663, or come into a county social services office to apply or get more information.

Luis Hernandez works for the Fresno Metro Ministry.

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