May 10, 2024
  • Redwood City – Did you know that thousands of San Mateo County residents could receive help putting nutritious food on the table but haven’t applied for assistance?

    To get the word out, County officials are expanding efforts to raise awareness and dispel myths about CalFresh, which helps low-income households increase their food-buying power to meet their household’s nutritional needs.

    Outreach teams will be at community events, farmers markets, grocery stores and elsewhere across San Mateo County throughout May, which is CalFresh Awareness Month. These teams will also provide information to local organizations and neighborhood groups.

    While CalFresh Awareness Month shines a light on the work, education and enrollment is a year-round effort.

    Each month our outreach team travels to remote areas and attends weekly events throughout the San Mateo to connect with residents and helps them to sign up for CalFresh and other benefits,” said  Navjeet Singh, director of Economic Self Sufficiency for the County’s Human Services Agency, which administers CalFresh.

    To learn more, contact the Human Services Agency Service Center, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., at 1-800-223-8383

    The amount of benefits a household receives depends on household size, income and monthly expenses. The program issues monthly benefits on an Electronic Benefit Transfer card, and food can be purchased at any grocery store or farmers market that accepts EBT cards.

    Currently, about 34,000 San Mateo County residents receive assistance through CalFresh putting nutritious food on the table. This includes nearly 11,000 children. CalFresh helps residents struggling with the region’s high cost of living and rising cost of food.

    “We’re reaching about half of our eligible population and we want to reach everyone,” Singh said.

    CalFresh benefits are fully funded through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP; the County pays only administrative costs.  CalFresh also boosts the economy. Research by the USDA shows that every $1 of CalFresh expenditures generates $1.54 in economic activity.

    Claire Cunningham, the director of the Human Services Agency, said it’s important to combat the stigma surrounding food assistance. Most people apply for food assistance because of adverse circumstances and life events, which could happen to anyone. Similarly, immigration-related misconceptions about the CalFresh program can prevent people from applying for benefits.

    Here are the facts:

    • A household can receive CalFresh if at least one household member is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.
    • Applying for or getting CalFresh does not affect immigration status for you or your family.
    • All children born in the U.S. may get CalFresh benefits if they qualify. It does not matter where their parents were born.
    • If you’re eligible for CalFresh but another member of your household isn’t, you can still apply.
    • A person who isn’t eligible can still apply on behalf of others in the household who are.
    Neal Cooper
    Neal Cooper

    While CalFresh benefits stretch food budgets, participants may also qualify for additional programs that service residents with low incomes. These include the Mariposa Program (free admission to San Mateo County Parks), free or reduced museum admission and a program called Market Match, which doubles CalFresh dollars at participating farmers markets.

    “I really appreciate the Market Match program which doubles your food dollars so I can get more fruits and vegetables while shopping at the farmers markets,” said Neal Cooper, an East Palo Alto resident who utilizes CalFresh assistance for himself and his two young daughters.

    The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday proclaimed May as CalFresh Awareness Month to help raise the program’s profile.

    “Food scarcity is a real big deal in San Mateo County,” said Board President Warren Slocum. “If you’ve ever taken the time to go on a Saturday to a food distribution location, you’ll see lines of cars and people and families, and they do this every week, week in and week out.”

    Look for CalFresh community events near you throughout May.

    Media Contact

    Michelle Durand
    Chief Communications Officer