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Simitian Pushes to Provide Food Help Where it's Needed


April 21, 2021


For More Information, Contact: 
Kelsey Martinez Combellick

(408) 299-5050 office

(408) 299-1277 cell

Three thousand residents needlessly “going without“


CalFresh, a federally-funded, County-administered supplemental nutrition assistance program (sometimes known as “food stamps”) is vital for low-income, food-insecure families and individuals. Yet more eligible North County/West Valley residents who receive other public benefits are left out of CalFresh than anywhere else in Santa Clara County.


“It makes no sense at all to leave federal funding on the table when local folks can’t put food on the table,” said County Supervisor Joe Simitian.


At a Board of Supervisors meeting on Tuesday, Simitian noted that, “In every other district in the County participation in CalFresh is 35%–40% higher” than in Northwest Santa Clara County. Only 19% of the residents in his district (District Five) who receive public assistance also receive CalFresh benefits, compared to 26% or 27% in the County’s other four districts, according to the County’s most recent report on public assistance programs.

“By my estimation,” Simitian said, “that means that for some reason there are more than 3,000 folks in my area who could and should be receiving food benefits who aren’t getting them. They are going without. And that has very real consequences in terms of hunger and nutrition.”


Simitian asked that County staff be directed to identify the factors leading to under-participation in the North County and West Valley communities he represents (roughly 400,000 County residents), and create a plan to improve outreach and increase sign-ups.


Programs like CalFresh are available to help address food insecurity, Simitian said, “but we’ve got to get the message out and connect folks to these resources. We can’t take a cookie cutter approach across the County, because it’s not working. We have to do it smarter, different, better.”


Simitian emphasized that he wasn’t looking at a percentage of the entire population, acknowledging that the district he represents is more prosperous than other parts of the county, and has less need.

But, he noted, ““When we look at the residents on public assistance of some kind, it’s clear that in the northwest part of the County, folks we have identified as people in need are not receiving the CalFresh benefits they may be eligible for, and that the federal government is funding.”


Food insecurity rose drastically during the economic recession caused by the pandemic. After the shelter-in-place order occurred in March 2020, CalFresh applications in Santa Clara County doubled from an average of 4,000 monthly to more than 8,000 in April 2020.


“Food budgets are often one of the few things people can cut when money is tight. That’s why programs like CalFresh that alleviate some of that burden while people get back on their feet are more important than ever,” said Leslie Bacho, CEO of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. “We know that not everyone who is eligible for CalFresh reaches out for help. Some people struggle with the stigma of needing assistance and others may not even be aware that they qualify.”


With California’s COVID-19 restrictions easing, pandemic-related protections will likely dwindle, leaving more people in need.


"Access to food resources is going to be vitally important for vulnerable families and individuals as we progress out of eviction moratorium," said Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency (CSA) in Mountain View. "We encourage the County to make sure there is CalFresh eligibility outreach to the northern part of Santa Clara County."


“It’s sometimes tough for folks who are doing OK to imagine that there really are people in our community who are going without food,” Simitian added. “But the problem is real, and more widespread than is often understood.”

For more information, see the County’s October 2020 “Quarterly Statistical Report of Public Assistance Program”: public assistance program participation by County Supervisorial District, pp. 8-13; CalFresh benefits in Santa Clara County, pp. 29-32.


Last updated: 4/21/2021 12:41 PM