Good Talk: Exchanging Stories for Success

Collective action is the best way to help people throughout California access the food they need – and it all starts with a conversation. By sharing stories across county lines, we are better able to demonstrate the struggles that people face, drive changes at the county and state level, and learn about innovative programs from partners outside our normal circle of contacts.

During March 2016, San Diego Hunger Coalition facilitated discussions related to best practice collaborations with county offices for the San Francisco Marin County Food Bank and two local partners, San Diego Food Bank and Feeding America San Diego. In the same month, we also hosted a CalFresh 101 training for Imperial Valley Food Bank to share client advocacy strategies that can improve clients’ experiences with their county office. 

Helping clients to access food assistance through the local county office is a task shared by many anti-hunger organizations in California. The Hunger Coalition brought these statewide partners together to provide guidance on working with the county office to resolve issues that may arise when clients apply for assistance, tracking client case issues to monitor trends and identify systemic barriers, and various innovations and progress that the Hunger Coalition has made with our partners to make the process of applying for CalFresh easier. 

How can your organization improve clients’ experiences applying for food assistance? Here are three of the best practices we discussed:

1.     Learn the regulations. In San Diego, we provide CalFresh 101 trainings. You can also go online to brush up on state regulations or learn about other resources.

2.     Get to know your County. Every County has a different structure, so take the time to learn how your county office, advisory board, or state representative can help resolve issues.

3.     Document issues as they arise. Ten stories about the same challenge are more powerful than one anecdote. We find that when we bring up specific client stories, the county is better able to make improvements.

Organizations interested in learning how we’re tracking case issues may contact Marcia Garcia, San Diego Hunger Coalition’s CalFresh outreach coordinator.