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Enrollment In State’s Food Assistance Program More Than Doubled During Recession

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EBT, food stamps, foodstamps, CalFresh, benefits, electronic benefits transfer

A California electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card used to access CalFresh benefits (formerly known as Food Stamps).

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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— Participation in CalFresh, California’s food assistance program, more than doubled during the economic downturn according to information coming out of the state legislative analyst’s office.

Californians seeking help in feeding themselves and their families grew from two million people in 2007 to more than four million in 2013.

Keisha Nzewi with the Alameda County Community Food Bank said her organization saw a similar increase in demand during that time period.

“Our helpline referrals more than doubled. It jumped 170 percent. It was 3,100 a month which was up from 1,140 calls a month prior to that time.

Federal numbers, however, show that only about 57 percent of eligible Californians utilized the program in 2011, something Ryan Woolsey with the legislative analyst’s office said may be due to the application process:

“The state has taken many steps to make it easier for those that are interested in participating that they are made aware of the program and that it’s not unduly burdensome for them to participate and allow them to get that support,” he said.

The national food stamp utilization average in 2011 was 79 percent. CalFresh is federally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP).

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