A Fresh Start for CalFresh

The new year brings a major change to CalFresh, a federal program that provides modest food benefits that help nearly 4 million low-income Californians – more than half (60 percent) of whom are children – ward off hunger. Thanks to AB 6 (Fuentes), Californians applying for CalFresh assistance no longer have to be fingerprinted in order to receive benefits. This change should help increase the number of Californians who enroll in CalFresh, since numerous studies suggest that fingerprinting deters eligible individuals from applying, as we reported in 2009. Boosting participation in CalFresh is sorely needed. In 2009, just 53 percent of eligible Californians were enrolled, ranking dead last among the 50 states, according to a recent report from the US Department of Agriculture. In addition, because CalFresh benefits are 100 percent federally funded, improving participation would bring more federal dollars to California. Those additional federal dollars would be spent at grocery stores throughout the state, supporting jobs and further aiding local economies.

—Scott Graves