Confronted with a wide range of complex challenges to enrolling residents in need of food assistance in the CalFresh Program, the Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) has launched a comprehensive community outreach and education campaign to address the increasing threat of food insecurity in the most populated and culturally-diverse county in the nation.
Food insecurity is defined as the lack of reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. According to the findings of Food Insecurity in Los Angeles County, the recently published report on hunger by Public Health, CalFresh is a significant resource in a “multi-sector approach” to improving food insecurity.
CalFresh is the federally-funded supplemental food benefit established to improve the nutrition of low-income households by helping to increase their food-buying power. Food insecurity is more likely to occur among racial and ethnic minorities and in low-income communities where individuals and families struggle financially to purchase healthy foods and resort to buying less expensive foods that are filling, but high in calories and lacking in nutritional value. In children, food insecurity can lead to delayed development, diminished academic performance, impaired social skills and early onset of obesity.
Based on the most recent data provided by the California Department of Social Services, there are approximately 599,000 Los Angeles County residents who are in need, but are not receiving food assistance.
“There’s no argument that when government organizations work closely with dedicated community partners to address the problem of food insecurity, those in need of CalFresh benefit the most,” said DPSS Acting Director Antonia Jiménez, who is leading the campaign. “The Public Health report confirms the need for a strategic effort to connect with those in need of food assistance.”
Working directly with county departments, community and faith-based organizations and local media outlets, the inclusion of the #ChooseCalFresh social media campaign builds on the department’s existing outreach strategies by seizing on the power of social media to better inform and serve residents. To assist partners in promoting the #ChooseCalFresh message, the department has created a digital toolkit to share information about CalFresh across their social networks. By trending the #ChooseCalFresh hashtag, the department aims to increase awareness and encourage participation among those who may be eligible for CalFresh, but are not receiving the benefit.
Los Angeles County residents will also become familiar with seeing the DPSS Health & Nutrition Mobile Unit and outreach staff throughout the county at community events, supermarkets, health clinics, libraries and other public settings that are easily accessible and provide a convenient and comfortable environment for enrollment services. Outreach to seniors, students, families, homeless individuals, and veterans will be also be enhanced during this campaign.
A Call for Community Assistance
Local organizations and individuals interested in supporting this effort are encouraged to follow the campaign on the DPSS social media platforms.
DPSS asks supporters to share the ChooseCalFresh toolkit’s digital products, which can be found at http://calfreshoutreach.lacounty.gov and trend the campaign’s hashtag: #ChooseCalFresh with every post and tweet.
“We all know someone who is experiencing difficulties purchasing food for themselves or their family,” Jiménez added. “Unfortunately, we also know that many are forced to choose between buying enough food or paying their basic household bills.”