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February 8, 2023

Emily Balli, May 4: May is CalFresh Awareness Month


Raising children to eat healthy food can be challenging and expensive. When the household budget is tight, many times healthy food options are the first to go. Sustainable access to nutritional food is an important building block when raising children.

CalFresh (formally known as Food Stamps) helps struggling families and individuals in California purchase healthy, nourishing food, including at farmers markets. Every May, counties across California celebrate CalFresh Awareness Month to demonstrate the program’s benefits and help more people access this important nutritional supplement.

Many studies suggest that when children go hungry, it can negatively impact their intellectual, physical and emotional development and puts them at greater risk for obesity, diabetes and other chronic diseases later in life. CalFresh can help families put healthy food on the table.

Many families and individuals qualify for CalFresh but they may not realize it. Approximately nine percent of Santa Cruz County residents access CalFresh benefits on a monthly basis. However, many more are likely eligible and are not currently enrolled.

Applying for CalFresh has become easier — you can complete the CalFresh application in person, by phone, online and through the new GetCalFresh app, available for any electronic device at   

Nearly 60 percent of food retailers in Santa Cruz County accept payment through the CalFresh Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card. With CalFresh, you can double your CalFresh dollars when you purchase $10 of fresh fruits and vegetables at the Watsonville, Felton and Live Oak Farmers Markets using your EBT card. As part of CalFresh Awareness activities during the month of May, all three Farmers Markets will double their typical market match; this means when you spend $10 in CalFresh dollars, you get an additional $20 to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers.

If you are disabled, homeless or are age 60 or older, you can use your EBT card to buy meals at participating Santa Cruz County restaurants. If you are a college student, you may be eligible for CalFresh. With more college students going hungry, the county has teamed up with UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College to ensure that all eligible students apply and use their CalFresh benefit. Students can access information on CalFresh, local food pantries and other assistance at their school’s website.

CalFresh helps prevent hunger and promotes health for children, families and the entire community. 

To apply for CalFresh, call 888-421-8080 or go to Learn more and see our calendar of CalFresh Awareness Month events at Find pantries and food distribution near you at 662-0991 or go to


Emily Balli is deputy director of the Santa Cruz County Human Services Department. Her opinions are her own and not necessarily those of the Pajaronian.


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