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CalFresh Mislabeled: Not a Welfare Program

URBAN PERSPECTIVE - Promotions of the CalFresh program are causing debates over its tie to welfare dependency. Some are arguing that this program prohibits an individual’s or family’s ability to achieve self-sufficiency and is a band aid to promote unemployment. Despite what anyone thinks about the CalFresh program, its value is in giving households health and financial leverage.
CalFresh is not a highly subscribed program. Only 1 and 10 people in California receive the food benefit and about 50% of eligible people actually participate. According to reports, stigma, former eligibility restrictions, and office hour accessibility are the reasons for low enrollment.

CalFresh is not welfare as we know it. It is a gateway to health prosperity. The program gives struggling households healthier food options and improves health outcomes. Although there are pantries or food banks, the availability of fresh options are not always prevalent.

In communities of color, food pantry options are not nutrition rich. There isn’t an adequate supply of fresh fruits and vegetables or perishable goods for a healthy diet. Most of the food items are high in starches or sodium like canned goods, bread, rice, and pasta. In abundance, these contribute to diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

CalFresh offers better food choices by giving people the ability to purchase quality food. This can be the difference between purchasing a sugar filled cereal or Cheerios. And, the starving student or family won’t have to settle for Top Ramen as a three course meal because they have a greater selection.

People are struggling to make ends meet. Sometimes, food is first on the list for skimping. CalFresh is a great household leverage. People have more money available to spend on others things to sustain themselves, such as housing, transportation, school, and utility expenses. This by itself is a springboard to achieve self-sufficiency at a faster rate than dealing with food insecurity. Without federal programs like CalFresh, research shows that hungry people perform poorly at work and school and increase healthcare and public safety costs.

The myth that CalFresh is a dependency program is inaccurate. Stigmatizing and shaming people for their life situations are heartless cowardly acts. Admittedly, there is fraud and abuse. However, this is relatively small and doesn’t speak to the overall benefits of CalFresh for people who need it or for the economy that is stimulated by it.

With 1.7 people at risk of hunger in Los Angeles, CalFresh is the saving grace for people on the verge of homelessness or catalyst to economic survival.

(Janet Denise Kelly offers more than a decade of accomplishments in the housing and nonprofit sector. Janet brings valuable insight in the areas of community and economic development. Additionally, she brings knowledge regarding the leadership and management challenges faced by large and small nonprofits that are struggling or growing organizations. She blogs at –cw

Tags: CalFresh, food, federal programs

Vol 9 Issue 101
Pub: Dec 20, 2011