- Author: Shannon A Klisch
- Author: Jen Miller, SLO Public Health
- Author: Allen Dailey, SLO Information Technology (GIS)
- Author: Leo Ontiveros, SLO Public Health
CalFresh (also known as SNAP or food stamps) is one of our most effective tools for increasing food security; however, not everyone who qualifies for the benefits are receiving them. This adds up to a big loss in terms of potential health and economic benefits. Analysis shows that if 100% of eligible people in our county participated in CalFresh, that would bring in $32.5 million in additional federal dollars locally. This additional money for low-income households would also free up dollars for individuals to spend on other basic needs, like housing, transportation, and medical care. However, CalFresh utilization in SLO County remains low.
With the last of the emergency allotments for the SNAP/CalFresh program distributed in March, families will be facing a shrinking food budget. Emergency allotments raised each household's monthly allotment by at least $95 and helped many households in California and San Luis Obispo County stay out of poverty and continue to put food on the table.
Exploring the issues through data and geography
In a new project to continue working toward increasing food access and food security, partners from UC Cooperative Extension and the CalFresh Healthy Living programs; San Luis Obispo County departments of Public Health, Social Services, and Information Technology (GIS); and the SLO Food Bank are collaborating to, literally, put food access in SLO County on a map.
The map is called SLO County Food Assistance Programs: Access and Participation Map. It incorporates data from our county CalFresh program, U.S. Census data, local farmers markets, school meal programs, and food bank partners to visually explore the gaps in food access and food assistance. The map can be used to plan outreach strategies, to raise awareness of the CalFresh program, to identify priority areas for increasing food distributions, and to see how close farmers markets that accept CalFresh and offer nutrition incentives through the Market Match program are to low-income households and people actually on CalFresh.
How to use the food access and participation map:
Go to the map by clicking the link above or cutting and pasting this address into a web browser: https://gis.slocounty.ca.gov/sites/foodassistance.htm
Click on the icon that looks like a stack of papers to see all the possible data layers and start exploring. Click the small gray drop-down arrows to expand categories of layers, and click the check box next to layer names to turn layers on and off.
Questions to explore:
Plan Outreach to Food Insecure Communities
In SLO County, only 47.6% of the people who are eligible to receive CalFresh are actually enrolled in the program. Eligible individuals who are not enrolled could be receiving hundreds of dollars in food assistance each month. We can change that by learning which communities have low CalFresh enrollment, even though they are income eligible and then planning outreach strategies that are tailored to that particular community. To learn where there is a need for more CalFresh outreach, select the CalFresh Use Among Income Eligible layer. The darkest census tracts are the areas where outreach should be focused - a high percentage of income eligible households (at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level) but few people enrolled in CalFresh.
Use CalFresh at Farmers Markets Near You
Compare where there are farmers markets that accept CalFresh with census tracts where high percentages of people are on CalFresh. Click the Farmers Markets and CalFresh Households layers.
Food Distributions by Neighborhood
See where food is distributed and how that aligns with low-income census tracts. Click the SLO Food Bank layer and the Median Income by Census Tract layer.
How will you use the map to support food access in SLO County?
To apply for CalFresh:
Visit GetCalFresh.org, call the CalFresh Info Line 1-877-847-3663 (available in English, Spanish, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Russian), or visit your local Department of Social Services office.
To find a farmers market near you that accepts CalFresh, WIC, and has the Market Match program, visit FarmersMarketFinder.org.