The San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC) works to identify and address systemic barriers to participation in CalFresh, and we have a special focus on vulnerable populations not being successfully reached through existing outreach efforts. Though Head Start families are almost 100% eligible for CalFresh, only 40% are enrolled countywide.
With a $10,000 grant from Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, San Diego, SDHC is launching a new program to connect Head Start families to CalFresh benefits and nutrition education. We are developing a new outreach program tailored for Head Start providers, and our partners on this initial pilot will be Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Head Start and 2-1-1 San Diego. AKA Head Start serves over 1,500 very low-income three- to five-year-olds at 13 centers in East San Diego County.
When asked why they have not applied for CalFresh benefits, AKA Head Start families have reported they do not understand eligibility guidelines, need help applying, and/or fear cultural stigma or adverse effects on family immigration status. Our program will: (1) train Head Start staff on CalFresh application assistance; (2) pair AKA with 2-1-1 for the final stages of CalFresh enrollment through their telephone service; and (3) match the Head Start provider with one or more agencies providing nutrition education.
We anticipate this will increase the food purchasing power of at least 350 AKA Head Start families by an average of $150 per month through CalFresh enrollment. Other expected outcomes are increased knowledge and motivation to purchase and prepare healthy foods and a decrease in the overall rate of overweight or obesity among AKA Head Start children by 5% during the 2015/2016 school year.
This pilot project will be self-sustaining, because we are increasing the capacity of AKA Head Start through training, arranging what will be ongoing partnerships, and working with AKA to incorporate the program into organizational protocols. AKA, 2-1-1, and nutrition educators are all funded by federal, state, and county programs for their elements of the program. The long-term strategy is to scale up the program model developed through this pilot with Head Start providers countywide.