Over the past year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition has been working to pair nutrition education and CalFresh outreach throughout the County. With funding from Kaiser Permanente, the Hunger Coalition partnered with the County Nutrition Action Partnership (CNAP) and the CalFresh Task Force (CFTF) to identify opportunities to ensure that low income San Diegans have access to both the financial resources (through CalFresh) and the knowledge necessary to make healthy food purchases for their families.
Many San Diego organizations receive federal funding to teach low income residents how to purchase and prepare healthy meals. These nutrition education classes focus on healthier eating habits and physical activities in an effort to reduce health issues like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The individuals targeted for this nutrition education are also eligible for CalFresh; however, the Hunger Coalition learned that not all organizations providing nutrition education had the capacity to help participants apply for CalFresh benefits.
The Hunger Coalition identified and facilitated relationships between CalFresh Task Force members and nutrition educators at five different sites in North, Central and East County. One example of a partnership developed through this work is between Alliance for African Assistance and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). Through this collaboration, EFNEP is now leading a five-week nutrition education class at Alliance for African Assistance for recent refugees in English and Arabic, covering topics such as physical fitness, importance of fruits and vegetables, and how to shop on a limited budget. Harris Siddiqui, the CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at Alliance for African Assistance said, “The clients really enjoyed and were interested in the nutrition classes. They particularly enjoyed the practical exercises for how to cook and how to implement the lessons learned for their families.” This is the first time that Alliance for African Assistance has been able to offer families nutrition education and is the first time that EFNEP has been able to ensure that individuals enrolled in their classes have the ability to purchase healthy food through CalFresh.
The Hunger Coalition and our partners have already been able to reach 1,300 low income San Diegans through these partnerships, and we look forward to bringing additional nutrition education classes and CalFresh outreach to rural locations like Campo in East County later this month.