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Study: State Missing Out On Federal Food Support

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 22, 2010

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.
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