Bring a Million to Humboldt County

Bring a Million to Humboldt County 2013: Partnerships Improve Access

Four years ago Food for People launched the “Bring a Million to Humboldt County” campaign to educate the community about the benefits of what was then known as the Food Stamp Program and to help eligible households apply for benefits. Since then, the name of the program in California changed to CalFresh, to emphasize that the program promotes healthy living, supports California agriculture, is a nutrition program, and no longer uses “stamps”. Currently more than 15,000 Humboldt County residents participate in CalFresh, which is a little less than two-thirds of the total eligible, and they spend more than $2.4 million CalFresh dollars monthly in the local economy.  According to California Food Policy Advocates, Humboldt County misses out on an additional $1.16 million each month available to households not currently enrolled. The Bring a Million to Humboldt County campaign hopes to bring those funds to the local community, to help additional low-income households afford to purchase nutritious food. In addition, CalFresh dollars ripple throughout the local economy at a rate of $1.79 for every CalFresh dollar spent, improving business for local stores, farms, workers and beyond. Based on this rate of economic impact, the $14 million in CalFresh that Humboldt County leaves on the table for the year translates to a loss of $25 million in local economic impact due to low enrollment.

Since launching the Bring a Million campaign in 2009, nationwide participation in SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program- the new federal name for Food Stamps) increased from 36 million to the current 47 million people. Humboldt County experienced a 36% increase, jumping from 11,000 participants (about half of which were children) spending $1.75 million at local stores and farmers’ markets each month to the current 15,000 local residents spending more than $2.4 million monthly. We’ve nearly reached our goal of bringing that extra million CalFresh dollars to Humboldt County, however with the economic downturn, an increasing number of people have become eligible.

This year Bring a Million to Humboldt County continues to highlight successes and improvements in the Market Match program at local farmers’ markets. In 2011 Food for People and the North Coast Growers’ Association (NCGA) launched Market Match to increase CalFresh purchasing power at NCGA farmers’ markets. Thanks to a grant from Roots of Change and a California Department of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, the program provided a bonus of extra farmers’ market dollars to shoppers using their CalFresh EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) debit cards. CalFresh shoppers purchase dollar tokens at the market manager’s booth, and with the Market Match receive a bonus of $5 when they spend $10 in CalFresh. This increases low-income households’ access to locally grown fruits, vegetables, seeds, and plant starts, while supporting Humboldt County farmers and the local economy. With increasing education about CalFresh over the last several years and availability of Market Match, NCGA CalFresh sales have increased from $5,493 in 2008 to $36,256 in 2012. Market Match will be in effect again for the 2013 season, with additional funding from Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It is available at all five NCGA farmers’ markets in Eureka, Arcata and McKinleyville, in addition to the Fortuna and Garberville farmers’ markets. In addition, Market Match will again be extended to WIC and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers. Anyone interested in learning more about CalFresh can visit a market manager’s booth. Staff at any NCGA market manager’s booth can help people apply for CalFresh right at the farmers’ market.

Food for People’s partnership with NCGA is one example of the growing effectiveness of partnerships between community organizations and agencies working to make healthy food available and affordable to all Humboldt County residents. Over the last year, thanks in large part to DHHS, the number of community based organizations and DHHS programs engaging in CalFresh education and application assistance has grown tremendously and helps more Humboldt County families and residents than ever before to access this much needed nutrition program. People can apply at a number of locations throughout the county, including Family Resource Centers, health clinics, the food bank, farmers’ markets, a number of DHHS locations and many more. It is also possible to apply online at www.c4yourself.com and to complete the entire process by phone and mail. Food for People, DHHS and other organizations coordinate outreach efforts locally through the Humboldt County CalFresh Task Force. Throughout April, May and June, the outreach team at Food for People will be traveling around the county visiting food pantries, family resource centers, grocery stores, farmers’ markets and other community locations to answer questions and help people apply for CalFresh. Please scroll to the bottom of this page to see a detailed calendar.

 

Why Increase CalFresh Participation?

  • CalFresh Creates a Healthier Humboldt. It helps children, seniors, families and other individuals afford to incorporate more nutritious foods, like fruits and vegetables, into their diets.
  • CalFresh Supports the Local Economy. In Humboldt County, approximately 15,000 residents use their EBT debit cards to spend $2.4 million CalFresh dollars monthly at local grocery stores and farmers’ markets. Seven Humboldt County farmers’ markets accept CalFresh. Enrolling the rest of Humboldt County’s eligible residents could bring an additional $1.16 million to the local economy each month, which would ripple throughout the county with an economic impact of $2.19 million monthly.
  • Grow Your Garden with EBT. CalFresh can be used to purchase seeds and plants that produce food. Utilizing CalFresh to start a garden is an economical way to get one’s hands on the health benefits of fresh, local produce throughout the season. These are available at farmers’ markets and many local grocery stores.

 

Key CalFresh & Hunger Statistics

  • SNAP (CalFresh at the federal level) now serves 1 in 7 Americans and nearly 1 in 4 children.
  • Half of all children in the United States will be part of a SNAP household during their childhood. 
  • In Humboldt County, 11% of residents, or 15,000 people, utilize CalFresh. Nearly half are children.
  • According to USDA, more than 1 in 7 American households suffer from food insecurity (almost 15% of the population or 49 million people in 17 million households). Food insecure households are defined as having difficulty, at some time during a year, providing enough food for all members due to a lack of resources.
  • Recent Census Bureau data revealed that 1 in 6 Californians lived in poverty in 2011. The rate for children is disproportionately higher at 1 in 4, or 24.3% of all children residing in California. In total, 16.9% of Californians are living in poverty.
  • The California Center for Rural Policy’s Humboldt County Community Food Assessment estimates that 31.1% of low-income adults experience food insecurity in Humboldt County.

 

Who Is Eligible for CalFresh?

  • CalFresh is guaranteed as a right to anyone who is eligible. Any U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident with a valid Social Security Number can apply. It is also safe to apply for one’s children born in the United States, even if parents are ineligible.
  • Eligibility includes meeting the income guidelines, which vary depending on household size.

 

Myths and Misunderstandings

  • One reason why eligible households do not participate in CalFresh is they simply do not know they are eligible. The program helps to boost the food budgets of both working and unemployed households and those on fixed incomes such as Social Security. Currently, only 10% of eligible seniors and just 5% of eligible Social Security recipients participate.
  • By participating in the program one is not taking benefits that could otherwise be given to someone else. CalFresh benefits are guaranteed by the government to all who are eligible.
  • New rules have improved access to the program, thus anyone ineligible in the past may now be eligible.
  • The resources (such as money in bank accounts) of most households are exempt when determining eligibility. Families will no longer be ineligible due to having money saved in the bank, which is especially important for newly unemployed households and those saving for the future.
  • Owning one or more cars does not make one ineligible for the program, nor does owning one’s home or having retirement (IRAs, 401K, pension) or education accounts (529s).
  • No information given to DHHS is shared with any other government entity, such as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.). Applying for one’s U.S.-born children is completely safe.

 

For more information on Bring a Million to Humboldt County or CalFresh, contact Food for People:

Heidi McHugh, Community Edu. & Outreach Coordinator: (707) 445-3166 ext. 308 hmchugh@foodforpeople.org

Michael Quintana, CalFresh Application Assistor (707) 445-3166 ext. 318 mquintana@foodforpeople.org

Click here to visit our CalFresh page.

Apply with us at Food for People OR click here to apply online right now at www.c4yourself.com

  • It is also possible to apply directly with the Department of Health and Human Services by calling 1-877-410-8809 or visiting one of their offices:

929 Koster Street in Eureka

1200 Airport Rd in Hoopa

727 Cedar Street in Garberville

Sites county-wide in a community near you, at the DHHS Mobile Engagement Vehicle. To see the MEV schedule, click here.