For many low-income San Diego residents, there is a simple but significant barrier that stops them from getting access to the food they need: they would have to visit a County office. While San Diego County’s Health and Human Services Agency has been working hard to improve customer service and the environment in their Family Resource Centers, unpleasant experiences from the past create expectations for the future that keep people from seeking the help they need. Also, for some, applying at a County office means driving upwards of 60 miles round trip for multiple visits – an impossible hardship for many families in need of assistance.
Here are three ways to apply for CalFresh benefits that don’t involve a county office visit:
2. Over the phone through 2-1-1 San Diego (dial 211) or the County’s Access Call Center (1-866-262-9881).
3. In person by visiting a community based organization. Community organizations and 2-1-1 San Diego can also connect people to additional food resources. For a list of San Diego County community-based organizations providing CalFresh application assistance, visit San Diego Hunger Coalition's CalFresh Assistance page.
Online Application Gets a Makeover
A particularly helpful feature of the online application now allows people with smart phones to take pictures of necessary verification documents like pay stubs or ID cards and upload them online. For those who do not currently have access to a smart phone, various free or low cost phone programs can make this feature available.
Success in Action: Encinitas Community Resource Center
The Community Resource Center (CRC) is one of the outstanding community-based organizations using innovative options to help people apply for CalFresh, a monthly supplement to a household’s grocery budget. After walking a client through the application process, the Community Resource Center would traditionally set up a time for the client to come back to the office and complete their interview. But now, CRC gives clients the option to virtually complete their interview online using web-based technology. Both the Community Resource Center and the partnering County Family Resource Center in Oceanside have computers set up with cameras, speakers and microphones. Clients can choose to complete their interview privately or have CRC staff present to assist them in better understanding questions. CRC staff can also then help the client gather and submit any additional information that the County requested during the interview. This model works incredibly well because clients can:
1. Choose an interview time that works well for them.
2. Conduct their interview at a convenient location where they feel comfortable and safe.
3. Seek support from Community Resource Center staff during the interview.
4. Complete the application process immediately after the interview by working with CRC staff to ensure any additional information or verifications are submitted on the spot.
As a result, nearly 100 percent of the applicants that use web-based interviews are successful. The Community Resource Center also works to share lessons learned and best practices with fellow community-based organizations. Thanks to the staff’s dedicated collaboration, the Community Resource Center was voted the 2015 CalFresh Outreach Partner of the Year by peers from San Diego Hunger Coalition’s CalFresh Task Force.