It is a little-known fact that more than half a million low-income households in LA County are experiencing food insecurity. The CalFresh Program provides supplemental benefits to these households so they can buy nutritious food at supermarkets, grocery stores, and farmers markets. However, 1 out of 3 eligible LA households are not taking advantage of this important program.
The benefits of CalFresh participation are significant and go beyond simply providing healthy food to low-income families. Studies show that adults who received CalFresh as children have greater high school completion rates and lower rates of stunted growth, obesity and heart disease. CalFresh also stimulates local economic activity and increases jobs in the food production and distribution businesses.
In an effort to increase the participation rates among LA households, the Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by LA County Supervisors Kuehl and Hahn to instruct the Director of Public Social Services (DPSS) to create a specialized unit with existing DPSS staff and resources to identify opportunities to increase enrollment, retention, and reporting, and to adopt a goal of increasing CalFresh participation by no less than 20 % over two years. If the County were able to raise participation to 100%, LA could receive an estimated $1.8 billion in additional federal funding, and the increased participation would also mean another $2.1 billion in local economic activity.
“The CalFresh Program is the first line of defense against poverty and food insecurity for low-income families and communities,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “This motion helps ensure that the County is doing its part in ensuring that residents can put nutritious food on the table and lead healthy lives.”
“There are families going hungry in LA County despite the fact that they qualify for help,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “CalFresh can make a world of difference for a family in need and we have to do a better job in LA County making sure our most vulnerable residents know that help is available.”
This motion is one of several efforts made by Supervisor Kuehl to ensure that low-income County residents can meet their basic needs for food and shelter. Since 2015, Supervisor Kuehl has authored County motions to raise the minimum wage, establish the County’s Affordable Housing Plan, and open a Center for Financial Empowerment.