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CalFresh reports historic need, says applying for benefits is easier than ever

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Posted at 8:17 AM, May 12, 2022

May is CalFresh Awareness Month and in San Luis Obispo County, other food assistance programs including the SLO Food Bank are pitching in to help.

“Those families and individuals who were already kind of on the edge with these even small increases, it can be really, really disastrous for their for their lives," said Andrea Keisler, the community programs director for the SLO Food Bank.

Experts say many people do not realize they are eligible for CalFresh benefits, also known as food stamps.

“Overall, there is a gap between communication between clients who are actually eligible. A lot of people don't know that they're eligible and so that's why we're trying to get the word out,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, the CalFresh outreach manager for the SLO Food Bank.

CalFresh provides help to individuals and families to pay for food. The benefits are issued through a debit card which can be used at grocery stores and some farmers’ markets.

“We estimate that there's a good number that are not currently on CalFresh. The state's most recent estimation is based on 2020 numbers, but that puts us at around 50% of potential eligible families that are actually on CalFresh," explained Robb Koch, program manager for the San Luis Obispo County Department of Social Services.

People can qualify if they are a citizen or a legal resident of California, and are income eligible. If there is a mixed-status household, an adult can apply on behalf of a child.

The program issues about $3 million in CalFresh benefits to the county every month.

“If we reached our target participation rate, so if we reached that other 50% of potential eligible individuals in San Luis Obispo County, that could be another 3 million,” said Koch.

The County says it has never been easier to apply: People can apply over the phone (805) 781-1600, go online, or request to make an appointment.