Six million Californians every day face hunger or the fear of going hungry. California’s CalFresh–our State’s name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)–is a critical support for many of those facing hunger, providing an average of $330 per household per month for groceries.
However, our State’s historically low participation rate – among the worst in the nation, according to the USDA — means that over 3.2 million people are not receiving the $3.5 billion in federal benefits for which they qualify for food. This low rate of participation also means that California is losing $6.3 billion in economic activity that CalFresh usage could generate for our state and, in particular, our food and agriculture sectors. California also pays among the highest administrative costs in the country, according to the USDA; options to increase cost-effectiveness without compromising service deserve careful consideration.
Recent advocacy and press has put a spotlight on California’s poor participation rate and some of the solutions urgently needed, including statewide standards for simpler program rules, modern customer service, and connections to health coverage.