CalFresh (Food Stamps) Outreach

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Since 2007, Second Harvest Food Bank has been providing outreach, education, and enrollment assistance to community members who may be eligible for CalFresh. Applying for CalFresh is a challenging process; the Food Bank works collaboratively with county officials to reduce access barriers. Participation enables households to receive an EBT card, similar to a debit card, to buy groceries at local stores and farmers' markets. A household of one can receive up to $192 per month, a household of four up to $640 per month, and a household of 6 up to $913 per month in benefits.

"When [they] called on my behalf, I got an appointment and my benefits authorized the next day. Now I can feed my children well and use my own money to buy them the things they need for school."

-New CalFresh Recipient

Program Description

Many people are eligible for CalFresh (also known by the federal name "SNAP," Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or Food Stamps) but do not know or hesitate to apply. According to California Food Policy Advocates, less than half of those who are income-eligible for CalFresh in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties receive benefits. Our community loses more than $321 million in economic activity each year as a direct result of this low participation. Participation barriers include lack of understanding of the program and eligibility factors, challenges with the application process, and federal and state policy requirements. The Food Bank addresses these barriers through direct assistance to individuals and widespread community outreach and education.

Direct Assistance to Individuals

Food Bank staff, trained in CalFresh policies and eligibility standards, provides education, pre-screening, and application assistance to community members in person at food distribution sites and over the phone through the Food Connection hotline (1-800-984-3663). Staff submits applications to Santa Clara and San Mateo County Social Services offices and provides referrals to additional food resources available to clients as they navigate the public benefits system. Assistance is provided in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and other languages by arrangement.

Community Outreach and Education

The Food Bank conducts community outreach and education collaboratively with our agency partners, leveraging our ability to increase CalFresh participation rates. Multi-lingual outreach materials are distributed to non-profit organizations widely, and staff promotes CalFresh at community outreach events and food distributions throughout the year. Food Bank staff also provides presentations to potential applicants and trains non-profit staff to understand eligibility criteria and the application process so that they in turn can help promote the program to their clients.

Population and Region Served

  • Any low-income resident or household in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties living at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Level may be eligible for CalFresh and may receive application assistance from the Food Bank.
  • Second Harvest Food Bank works throughout Santa Clara County and San Mateo County to find and pre-screen eligible families and to train non-profit organizations to maximize outreach opportunities as well.
  • From July 2016 through June 2017, Food Bank staff assisted more than 2,000 households in applying for CalFresh, and more than 22,000 were pre-screened for eligibility.

For More Information

For more information about CalFresh outreach efforts in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, please call Anna Dyer at 650-610-0800 ext.424 or email

For an in-depth analysis of barriers to CalFresh access, read this report.