Access to healthy and nutritious food is vital to the well-being of the community.
That’s why May has been designated as CalFresh Awareness Month — a chance to educate and increase awareness among the public about the food assistance program, the CalFresh application process, and dispel myths about eligibility requirements. Both San Diego and Imperial counties are sharing new resources and engaging in additional outreach to preserve and increase enrollment.
With inflation and the cost of living continuing to soar, more families will be pushed to make difficult decisions about where and how to spend their money. As the 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment found, community members are often forced to pick between competing financial priorities, which frequently leaves households without adequate funds for meals: 83% of 2-1-1 San Diego clients had to meet their basic needs before paying for their nutritional needs (2021). CalFresh has remained a lifeline for low-income households, assisting them in putting healthy, nutritious food on the table each month. In fact, enrollment to CalFresh has climbed 68% over the past decade, with 375,928 San Diegans served as of April 2023, demonstrating the immense need for the food assistance program.
It’s something your hospitals know all too well: the links between food insecurity and health — because you see them every day. Yet even as your hospitals continue to face pandemic-related challenges, they are helping to enroll patients in CalFresh.
Because it is clear that the key to a patient’s overall health is not just limited to their medical care, but also social and economic factors. Food insecurity is linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes, including poor mental health, diabetes, hypertension, pediatric asthma, and oral health problems in adults. Children who are food insecure are more likely to have poor academic outcomes, while seniors are more likely to have difficulty managing their health and medications.
Especially now, as Medi-Cal continuous coverage has ended, and California is restarting eligibility renewals, it’s important to remember that if someone is eligible for CalFresh, they are also likely eligible for Medi-Cal. And, if they renew or apply for CalFresh, Medi-Cal will renew for another year.
Integrating screening and food assistance into patient care and health care settings can help ensure every eligible resident in San Diego and Imperial counties can put food on the table. CalFresh can change lives, which is why the outreach and enrollment your hospitals are doing are so important.