CSAC Bulletin Article

Food Assistance Initatives

April 30, 2020

Over the past week, the Governor has made a series of announcements and focused significant time in his daily press briefings on the issue of food assistance for older adults and families.

Meal Delivery Program for Older Californians

California has received approval for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reimbursement of a new program for delivering meals to older Californians. The purpose of this program is to provide three nutritious meals a day to older Californians who are staying in their homes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to serve as an economic stimulus for local restaurants and their workers. The program website has links to program guidance as well as several FAQ documents, including one for local administrators.

The costs of the program will be shared by federal, state, and local governments. FEMA reimbursement will cover 75% of the total costs, the state will cover 18.75%, and local governments will be responsible for 6.25%. The program will be administered locally and costs are limited to $66 per day for the three meals inclusive of delivery. FEMA has approved reimbursement for the program through May 10 and the state may request an extension. Local administrators can be a county or city government. All relevant local entities, including county leadership, city leadership, aging agency, office of emergency services, non-profits, and tribes, are encouraged to collaborate to identify the appropriate local lead to administer the program.

The local administrator will be responsible for enrolling individuals, serving nutritional meals, sourcing local produce when possible, utilizing local restaurant and industrial kitchen operations committed to employee retention, establishing delivery services, and ensuring compliance with federal procurement standards and FEMA Public Assistance procurement requirements. Local administrators are also responsible for determining eligibility for this program, which can be accomplished through self-certification. Californians age 65 and older (or ages 60-64 and high risk) must meet certain eligibility criteria including income below 600% of the federal poverty level, having been exposed to or contracted COVID-19 or be high-risk due to underlying health conditions, not currently receiving food assistance from other federal nutrition programs, and live alone or with one other program eligible adult. Local administrators are also encouraged to work with their local 211 on community outreach.

Online Purchasing for CalFresh Benefits

As of April 28, online purchasing for CalFresh benefits is now live. CSAC provided details on this new option for CalFresh households when the Department of Social Services guidance was issued two weeks ago. CalFresh households can now use EBT cards to purchase groceries at two online retailers, Amazon and Walmart.

Pandemic EBT Program

California received approval from the US Department of Agriculture for the Pandemic EBT program on April 23. The Pandemic EBT program provides families with children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school with up to an extra $365 in food benefits due to the COVID-19 school closures.

Farm to Family Program

The Governor announced an expansion of the Farm to Family Program, a public/private partnership connecting farms and food banks. The goal of this expansion is to get 21 million pounds of fresh crops donated to food banks in May to help feed families. He indicated $3.6 million (federal funding and philanthropy) has been raised thus far towards a goal of raising $15 million to support the program through the end of the year.

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