The Los Angeles County Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) and its community partners have launched activities for the May “CalFresh Awareness Month.” This annual public awareness campaign collaboration is to increase access to food assistance for low-income families and individuals in the county.
The month-long effort highlights the critical role that CalFresh, the federally-funded supplemental food beneﬁt, plays in eliminating the threat of “food insecurity,” or the lack of reliable access to a sufﬁcient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. The Department of Public Health’s (DPH) most recent report on hunger, Rising Food Insecurity in Los Angeles County, described the problem as a “major public health issue that has reached crisis proportions” in the county.
Studies suggest that household hunger negatively impacts the intellectual, physical and emotional development of children, placing them at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and other diseases. Many families experiencing food insecurity in Los Angeles County are unaware that they may qualify for CalFresh.
“Hunger is an issue that affects us all. This collaboration represents an intense effort to serve those most vulnerable in the county,” said DPSS Director Sheryl L. Spiller. “We all know someone who is experiencing difficulties purchasing food for themselves or their family.”
To meet this challenge, DPSS has enlisted the support of DPH, local farmers’ markets and food banks, school districts, community and faith-based organizations and the 88 cities that operate within the county. The pre-campaign planning provides an opportunity for the department and community stakeholders to develop and implement creative strategies to address food insecurity in the county.
Events to publicize the effort will take place at various locations throughout the county, including the May 3rd CalFresh Awareness Month Community Kick-Off Event and Resource Fair at the Hubert Humphrey Comprehensive Health Center in South L.A.
Another challenge the collaboration has addressed over the years is the issue of residents not enrolling for CalFresh, due to a misunderstanding that applying will hurt their opportunity to become a permanent U.S. citizen.
Local immigration rights advocates agree that “public charge,” a term used to describe an individual who is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence for either public cash assistance or long-term care at the government’s expense, is one of the leading reasons why those in desperate need of food assistance for themselves and their children do not apply. According to the U.S. Citizens and Immigration Services, public charge has been part of immigration law for more than 100 years as grounds for inadmissibility and deportation.
For more information about applying for Cal Fresh beneﬁ ts, call (877) 597-4777 or visit: www.dpss. lacounty.gov/dpss/calfresh.
In its seventh year, CalFresh Awareness Month has been recognized as one of the most comprehensive and coordinated efforts in the state to build awareness about CalFresh. At the request of the California Department of Social Services, other counties have adopted similar outreach strategies. Locally, the effort was honored as a “Best Practice” outreach and education project by the County of Los Angeles’ Quality and Productivity Commission.