On Wednesday, February 1st, the 18th annual CalFresh Forum brought together administrators, advocates, outreach professionals, researchers, and other stakeholders at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria in Sacramento to identify opportunities and discuss strategies to improve the reach and impact of CalFresh among low-income, food-insecure Californians.
The Forum, co-sponsored by California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA), the California Department of Social Services CalFresh Branch, and the Alliance to Transform CalFresh, focused on upcoming opportunities to improve how CalFresh serves vulnerable populations as we look to the future and continue to work toward increasing participation and improving customer service across the state. “The CalFresh Forum is a place where thoughtful, committed advocates and administrators can gather to collectively plan to expand meaningful access to the vital health and nutrition support provided by CalFresh,” said CFPA Executive Director George Manalo-LeClair.
The event program featured morning plenaries led by speakers with extensive policy and programmatic expertise, including Kim McCoy-Wade , CDSS CalFresh Branch Chief, and Ed Bolen, Senior Policy Analyst with the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) who provided policy updates and outlooks on CalFresh through a state and federal lens, respectively. Sue Sigler, Executive Director of the California Association of Food Banks also presented on behalf of the Alliance to Transform CalFresh, and urged attendees to adopt and support the Alliance’s goal of adopting the statewide goal of raising the CalFresh participation rate to at least 80% statewide by the end of 2019, with no county below 70%.
During morning breakout sessions, attendees learned about the need for increased funding for anti-hunger initiatives in the state budget from Andrew Cheyne of the California Association of Food Banks. Jessica Bartholow of Western Center on Law and Poverty and Tracey Patterson of CFPA provided details on upcoming CalFresh-focused legislation. Attendees interested in supporting bills and budget actions were urged to stay informed and submit letters of support throughout the legislative session.
County administrators from Santa Barbara County offered insights into their new strategies to improve CalFresh participation by setting department-wide goals, designing focused outreach and inreach campaigns, and conducting ongoing project evaluation. County administrators interested in learning more about Santa Barbara County’s CalFresh Utilization Project were encouraged to reach out to Maria Gardner, Deputy Director, Economic Assistance Branch, Santa Barbara County DSS and her team.
The morning session also included an interactive workshop training on implicit bias led by William Kennedy. Participants gained valuable insight into how to combat implicit bias and work together to ensure access to CalFresh is equitable for all.
One goal of the Forum each year is to honor individuals and community organizations for their efforts to improve CalFresh access and participation. Each year, inspiring individuals and organizations are nominated by their peers to receive “Freshy Awards.” This year’s Awards inspired a record number of nominations and votes. Learn more about the winners and all of this year’s deserving nominees.
Afternoon sessions included a presentation from Ed Bolen of CBPP on the three-month time limit for unemployed adults without children, and the impact felt by clients and administrators in other states re-implementing the complex rule for the first time in years. CDSS CalFresh Policy Branch Chief Alexis Fernandez and Policy Analyst Amber Bonilla gave updates on the progress CDSS and counties have made in preparing for the return of the time limit. Program administrators, outreach partners, and advocates were encouraged to contact CDSS if they are interested in participating in workgroup sessions to help prepare for the time limit implementation in certain counties beginning September 1, 2018.
Forum attendees interested in increasing dual enrollment between Medi-Cal and Calfresh heard from Adam Dondro of the State Office of Horizontal Integration about recent data from the online application bridge between Covered CA and CalFresh, which shows some positive results but room for improvements to the integration of enrollment processes. County administrators learned about innovative and replicable Medi-Cal inreach projects in San Francisco and Alameda Counties from Diana Jensen of the SF-Marin Food Bank.
The Food Insecurity Screening in Health Care session brought together health care providers and anti-hunger stakeholders to learn more about the promising practice of screening for food insecurity in health care settings and referring patients to nutrition resources like CalFresh.
Melissa Cannon of CFPA, Leslie Goodfriend and Elisa Orona of Santa Cruz County, and Teri Olle of SF-Marin Food Bank described examples already happening in California and provided recommendations for expanding the practice to health care providers statewide.
All CalFresh Forum speaker presentations and event resources and materials can be accessed at http://cfpa.net/calfresh-forum-2017. Stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the 2018 CalFresh Forum—we hope to see you there! #CalFreshForum