Loss of CalFresh funds means 7.7 million lost meals monthly, study finds
The ending of emergency food benefits this month amounts to 7.7 million fewer meals each month for San Diego County residents in need, research published Tuesday by the San Diego Hunger Coalition found.
Along with increased grocery prices — up 11.3% from January 2022 — this results in a significant hit to the purchasing power of many county households, according to the research.
"Between inflation and threats like EBT fraud, these benefits are ending at an already difficult time for San Diego households in need," said Anahid Brakke, president and CEO of the coalition.
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the federal government implemented a temporary increase to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, known as "CalFresh" in California. These emergency payments were delivered as a second installment on people's cards each month.
In December 2022, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, which sunsets the additional CalFresh benefits. The California Department of Social Services says the last of the emergency allotments will be deposited on March 26.
According to the hunger coalition, county households will see a minimum of a $95 reduction in their CalFresh benefits, with some monthly reductions as high as $250.
As of June 2022, nearly one in four San Diego County residents were nutrition insecure, or unable to pay for three healthy meals a day. Nutrition insecurity rates were also higher in populations of color, including the Hispanic/Latino, Black and Indigenous communities.
Cities and neighborhoods losing the most monthly meals include one million in Chula Vista, 752,000 in El Cajon, 368,000 in San Diego's City Heights neighborhood, 272,000 in Logan Heights, 260,000 in Encanto and 245,000 in the College Grove Area, the coalition said.
However, CalFresh households may be able to increase the benefits they receive by connecting "with San Diego Hunger Coalition partner agencies or the County of San Diego directly to boost potential benefit amounts by voluntarily updating case information such as shelter costs, dependent care costs, medical deductions and utility costs," a statement from the coalition reads.
"San Diego's hunger relief community, advocates, elected officials and others must band together to help households relying on CalFresh at this critical time by ensuring that the most people receive the maximum benefit amounts for their household and connecting them with additional resources," Brakke said. "This includes making it easier for families to apply for benefits at the county level."
The San Diego Hunger Coalition leads a network of community-based organizations, health care providers and other nonprofits throughout San Diego County that can help people on CalFresh ensure they are receiving the maximum benefit for which they are eligible.