CalFresh Food Stamp Program Tries to Grow Amidst Proposed Changes

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California state Sen. Michael J. Rubio, D-East Bakersfield, intends to remove a number of sweetened beverages from the list of foods eligible for purchase under the CalFresh food stamp program, the Los Angeles Times reports.

How will Rubio decide which beverages are acceptable for CalFresh and which ones are not?

If the beverage has more than 10 calories per cup, it will be inappropriate for CalFresh under Rubio's proposed legislation.

Why is Rubio concerned about sweetened beverages purchased by CalFresh recipients?

"With the diabetes and obesity epidemic in the Central Valley and throughout California, SB 134 is simply the first step in trying to reverse this alarming trend, particularly among children," the state senator told the publication. As outlined in the Legislative Counsel's digest of SB 134, Rubio also notes that participants in the state's food stamp program are "more likely to be obese" than those who pay for groceries with their own money. The senator further notes, "Soda consumption among participants is significantly higher than nonparticipants."

Which types of beverages would be exempt from the 10-calories-per-cup mandate?

Rubio intends to exempt milk products, milk substitutes and "juice without added sugar."

How do California food stamp benefits work out for the Golden State's residents?

As detailed by the Monterey County Weekly, the higher cost of living in California makes it challenging to feed a family of four with CalFresh benefits exclusively. Approximately 10 to 15 percent of those who seek relief from local food banks also receive CalFresh benefits. Without this assistance, a family of four would have to purchase groceries for about $526 per month, which is not enough for many California families to make ends meet.

Why do officials continue to try to grow the CalFresh program?

The Times-Standard reports that California officials are desperate to add more participants to the CalFresh program since this would bring more federal assistance dollars into the state and generate more sales tax revenues on the local level. In Humboldt County alone, 56 percent of eligible CalFresh recipients do not participate in the program. Contradicting the finding of Rubio's proposed bill, the Area 1 Agency on Aging opines that food stamp recipients have the opportunity to make healthier food choices and "healthier people cost less to take care of medically."

Is the state successful in adding new food stamp recipients to the rolls?

The L.A. Times reports that the state of California had committed $832,000 to 2012 advertising campaigns that were designed to encourage residents to apply for CalFresh benefits. As a result, 289,000 additional Californians signed up for food stamps.

Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles-area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.

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