For a state with a budget deficit, California has walked away
from a lot of money -- $5 billion federal dollars that could have
been pumped into the economy if more low-income Californians had
signed up for Cal Fresh -- the program formerly known as food
stamps -- and went shopping. Tia Shimada with California Food
Policy Advocates and author of the "Lost Dollars, Empty Plates"
report, explains why.
"Low-income individuals and families are more likely spend
rather than save any additional income. Benefits are able to help
low-income Californians free up income for other household
necessities and for nonfood purchases."
Each county administers Cal Fresh its own way. Fresno is the
most aggressive in enrolling eligible residents, but according to
the report, still missed out on 100 million federal dollars. By
comparison, Sacramento County left $57 million dollars on the
table. Every time a Cal Fresh card is swiped at a store, a nearly
instantaneous transfer of funds from Washington starts a cash
ripple effect locally. Dennis Stewart, of the USDA Food and
Nutrition Service Western Region, uses an 89-cent head of broccoli
as an example.
"The head of broccoli for that 89 cents benefits the food
producers, the growers, and distributors and the marketers. The
supposition in our logic is: I might not have bought that broccoli
because I didn't have any money."
A household of four taking home less than about $1,800 a month
is eligible for Cal Fresh benefits.