CalFresh Awareness Month: Addressing Low Enrollment in SLO County and Why it Matters

San Luis Obispo, CA – May 3, 2022 – May is CalFresh Awareness Month. CalFresh is a vital hunger relief program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture and administered in our region by the County of San Luis Obispo Department of Social Services (DSS). Currently, CalFresh is used by 20,321 people to buy healthy and nutritious food in San Luis Obispo County. However, only 45.5% of eligible SLO County residents are currently enrolled in CalFresh.

CalFresh Enrollment Rates in SLO County

CalFresh serves as the first line of defense against food insecurity by providing eligible households with a monthly stipend to spend on groceries. Currently, CalFresh is used by 20,321 people to buy healthy and nutritious food in San Luis Obispo County. Current enrollment in San Luis Obispo County (45.5%) leaves 54.5% of likely eligible individuals without this important resource for themselves and their families. As of 2020, the CalFresh enrollment rate in San Luis Obispo County ranks 57th out of 58 counties in California. Maximizing CalFresh enrollment in SLO County is a win-win: eligible residents receive meaningful federal financial support to buy food and local stores and farmers enjoy the direct infusion of federal dollars into our SLO County economy. Low enrollment means that every year tens of millions of dollars in federal hunger relief does not benefit hungry residents or local businesses and agriculture.

Our local gap in CalFresh enrollment impacts community-wide access to local food, resulting in lost economic activity in San Luis Obispo County. Because CalFresh recipients tend to spend their benefits soon after receiving them, it is estimated that for every dollar spent on CalFresh, $1.50 in economic activity is generated. Programs like Market Match, which doubles the value of CalFresh benefits spent at local Farmers’ Markets, incentivize the purchase of locally grown produce while also making fresh fruits and vegetables more affordable to community members on a limited income. The economic multiplier for nutrition incentive programs is estimated to be even greater than for CalFresh. For every dollar spent on nutrition incentives, $3.00 in economic activity is generated for the local economy.

The SLO Food Bank is on the front lines, providing direct hunger relief to our neighbors through emergency food distributions, pantries, and meal sites. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the SLO Food Bank saw food insecurity increase dramatically in our community. And even now, two years in, they see many community members continue to struggle with the lingering economic impacts of the pandemic. The SLO Food Bank would like to be able to provide more support to our food-insecure neighbors, and CalFresh benefits are one way to do that, but we need to do it together.

CalFresh Awareness Month

CalFresh Awareness Month is aimed at increasing knowledge of this program and the help it can provide for not just individuals and families, but our community as a whole. This federally funded program has the unique and transformative impact of affording dignity to those experiencing hunger and investing in our local business community by lifting up our most vulnerable neighbors with designated funds dedicated to this vital effort. To find out if you qualify for CalFresh visit GetCalFresh.org or call 1-877-847-3663.

About the SLO Food Bank

The SLO Food Bank is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization serving all of San Luis Obispo County. The SLO Food Bank’s mission is to work with a network of community partners to alleviate hunger in San Luis Obispo County and build a healthier community. In 2021, the SLO Food Bank distributed over 4.1 million pounds of food through its Public Neighborhood distributions, a network of over 80 nonprofit Agency Partners, its Senior Home Delivery Program, and children and senior farmer’s markets. Last year, GleanSLO, a food rescue program of the SLO Food Bank, prevented over 310,000 pounds of local produce from laying to waste and instead nourished neighbors in need. To learn more about resources offered by the SLO Food Bank or ways to get involved, please visit www.slofoodbank.org.