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Calfresh Food Aid To Be Extended To Some Disabled Adults

Nearly 250 people line up in front of the Salvation Army in El Cajon to recei...

Photo by Susan Murphy

Above: Nearly 250 people line up in front of the Salvation Army in El Cajon to receive groceries during a Jacobs & Cushman Food Bank distribution event, May 15, 2019.

Before sunrise on Wednesday, nearly 250 people started lining up outside of the Salvation Army in El Cajon for a bag of groceries.

Some of the men, women and children brought chairs for the hours-long wait. Many lugged empty push-carts to haul the meat, rice, produce and canned goods that would be distributed on a first-come, first serve basis by the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank.

"It’s food they can’t afford on their own," said Jamil Shorees, 66, who stood with a cane near the front of the long line that stretched down East Main Street and around the corner.

“Most of us are facing difficulties because the rents are high,” Shorees said.

At the other end of the line was Connie Rios, 63, who carried her small Chihuahua in her jacket and held an empty bag. She had waited in similar lines for food on both Monday and Tuesday, she said.

“I need more help,” she said. “I need more help with more food.”

Video by Susan Murphy

Starting next month, Rios and Shorees, and many of the others with disabilities will get more help. On June 1, people receiving Supplemental Security Income, SSI, a federally funded monthly benefit that averages $930, will be eligible to apply for Calfresh benefits, formerly known as food stamps.

The Calfresh benefit, which averages $192 per month for a single person household, is put on an Electronic Benefit Transfer, or EBT, card, and can be used at some grocery stores and restaurants, similar to an ATM card.

“I’m very thankful," Shorees said. “The Calfresh will help us to get much food from the stores.”

But while the program is being expanded for those living on SSI, the Trump Administration is proposing cuts for people considered to be “able-bodied” adults, to help them “enter the job market and work toward self-sufficiency.”

San Diego Hunger Coalition executive director Anahid Brakke said the President’s proposed 20 percent cut over time, would be devastating.

“People are struggling,” she said. “Since the recession, about a third of San Diego County’s population has remained under 200% of the federal poverty level.”

For a family of four, that equates to an annual income of $50,000 — the bare minimum to make ends meet in San Diego County, she added.

Photo by Susan Murphy

Volunteers with the Salvation Army hand people cans of food, produce, meat and rice during a Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank distribution event in El Cajon, May 15, 2019.

More than half of low-income adults experiencing food insecurity are already employed, she said.

Brakke’s team recently analyzed where people living in poverty get their meals. They found 91% of food aid comes from federally funded programs, including Calfresh.

“When we take a look at where the different meals are coming from, and we see that only 9% of those meals are coming from privately supported food distributions, we begin to see what’s at stake,” she said. “A 20% cut to (Calfresh) at the federal level would require our food banks and their 500 partners across the county to double what they do to make up that difference.”

Shorees and the others, who were waiting patiently in line at the Salvation Army, applauded and cheered when the San Diego Food Bank truck rolled up to the Salvation Army parking lot.

“Thank you,” Shorees said with a smile. “I’m very thankful.”

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In today's San Diego News Matters podcast: Victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have cautioned against accepting a church-sponsored program to financially compensate them. Also in the show: While President Trump pushes Congress to create a new military branch called the Space Force, the Pentagon is about to choose a permanent home for its existing Space Command. And to help address the flow of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is tapping its partner agencies — including the TSA.

Aired: May 17, 2019 | Download | Transcript

CalFresh food assistance will be expanded in June to 95,000 people in San Diego County who are on Supplemental Security Income, but thousands of others who already receive the monthly benefit could see cuts.

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