CalFresh Awareness Month Highlights Efforts to Provide Healthy Food to Underserved Long Beach Residents

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795962f8-cd64-4b41-8dbe-78c5b472dfacCalFresh Awareness Month is an effort made across Los Angeles County to “increase access and participation in food assistance, reduce hunger and promote good nutrition” for the program federally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and branded in California as CalFresh.

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Local efforts to provide quality food to those who need it have not gone unnoticed, with Long Beach Fresh and The Children’s Clinic (TCC) spearheading ways to spread awareness of its availability to resident individuals and families in need. Long Beach Fresh, made possible by the California Endowment and fiscally hosted by the nonprofit organization Leadership Long Beach, has been working diligently to promote not only CalFresh, but widespread consumption of healthy foods.

"At Long Beach Fresh, we think that everyone should have affordable access to good food—food that is nutritious, culturally relevant, and that has integrity in how it’s produced and distributed,” said project co-coordinator Tony Damico. “In Long Beach, that means that we need better access to good food, from our farmers' markets to local stores and produce delivery services. CalFresh is a huge part of that equation[...].”

Long Beach Fresh’s Neighborhood Food Guides point those using CalFresh toward independent neighborhood food markets that accept EBT, as well as farmers markets as they increase their efforts to reach those affected by hunger. In 2015 the organization fought to get the state to pass the Nutrition Incentives Matching Grant Program, or AB 1321, which would expand the grant-based Market Match program. Offered at the Downtown Long Beach Harbor Area Farmers Market, which takes place on Fridays, Market Match matches shoppers’ first $10 spent on fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables to increase their spending power, says Damico.

“This year, we advocated to include $5 million in the state budget to support that program's expansion into more farmers markets as well as other small businesses like corner stores, and CSA's,” he continued. “We are still awaiting State leadership's final decision on the budget, but we're glad it's in the budget so far!"

The Children’s Clinic (TCC), founded in 1939 by a group of physicians and community leaders with the mission of “Serving Children and Their Families,” and now serves almost 40,000 low-income working families in 120,000 visits per year. TCC is the “medical home,” according to its bio, for under-served locals of all ages and noticed a disparity between the availability of the CalFresh program and those who truly needed it.

“As a pediatrician who has worked with vulnerable populations I know that food insecurity is a problem facing many children and families in our community and country,” said Elisa Nicholas, MD, MSPH and chief executive officer of TCC. “In our own community health centers, one-third of all families of young children who we recently began screening did not have access to adequate food. Many of these families were eligible for CalFresh but had not obtained it.”

Lack of enrollment sites and understanding of the enrollment process was clearly a barrier, so TCC trained their staff to be CalFresh enrollers, giving families a familiar and trusted face to work with. Now patients at all 11 TCC clinics in the greater Long Beach area are screened for CalFresh and then referred to its Health Education and Outreach Department for further enrollment processes, according to Nicholas, who says they’ve definitely seen a month-to-month increase in enrollment.

“Outreach efforts and word of mouth spread the news about CalFresh enrollment at TCC [and] more and more families are being referred by partnering agencies, internal clinic departments and other families in the community,” said Nicholas.

TCC also spreads the word through healthcare appointments, outreach events, community meetings, their home visitation programs, referrals from other TCC clinics and visiting groups at Villages of Cabrillo. In order to be screened at TCC, the patient must bring photo identification (driver’s license, passport, legal identification card), social security numbers, current alien card or immigration status proof, proof of income and proof of expenses (rent receipt, utility bills, childcare receipts, child support payments and other expenses).

For more information about CalFresh, visit the website here. Click here for more information about Long Beach Fresh and here for more about The Children’s Clinic.

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