Partnering with communities and government to improve the delivery of food assistance in California

GetCalFresh helps people apply for CalFresh food assistance (SNAP).

Our goal is to ensure that every Californian who needs CalFresh has an easy, dignified experience enrolling in and accessing their food benefits. CalFresh is the local name for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (also known as SNAP or food stamps).

GetCalFresh acts as a “digital enrollment assistant,” supporting people through each step of the eligibility and enrollment process on their mobile phone or computer. Once someone has applied through GetCalFresh, they receive text messages to confirm that their application was submitted, important reminders related to the enrollment process, and check-ins to see how their enrollment experience was.

All 58
counties in California using GetCalFresh
applications assisted each week

Currently, only seven out of every ten eligible Californians participate in CalFresh. By reaching out to underserved communities, GetCalFresh is working to close the “SNAP gap.” Closing the SNAP participation gap in California would ensure that nearly 2 million Californians who qualify for SNAP but aren’t receiving it get the benefits they need. Access to SNAP has been shown to alleviate poverty, improve physical and mental health, and improve lifetime health and education outcomes for children.

GetCalFresh has also responded quickly to crises. In 2020, America experienced the worst hunger crisis since the Great Depression. During the coronavirus pandemic, GetCalFresh became the main access point for food aid for millions of Californians. The service processed three times the normal amount of applications, assisting 65% of all people applying for SNAP in California. In one 2020 weekend alone, GetCalFresh assisted over 50,000 applicants in need.

Once people are enrolled with GetCalFresh, they also get help accessing other benefits and services. More than 8,500 people registered to vote through GetCalFresh in 2020.

5 million+
people served with GetCalFresh
12 minutes
to complete an application

GetCalFresh collaborates with state and local governments to improve the policy and the technology used to distribute food aid. 

California used to require fingerprinting of people applying for SNAP, a time-consuming and stigmatizing process that left millions of families without benefits. After the California State Legislature removed the fingerprinting requirement in 2012, Code for America launched the GetCalFresh pilot with San Francisco County. Through a partnership with the California Department of Social Services, GetCalFresh is now the only statewide access point for Calfresh serving all California counties. The participation gap between those who are eligible for the benefit and those who have access to it is shrinking. An enrollment process that used to be nearly impossible to complete without multiple phone calls and visits to the county office now only takes eight minutes and can be done from a mobile phone.

Code for America’s partnerships with county governments and state agencies has helped break down barriers to enrollment, given applicants empathetic resources to turn to when they have questions, and ensured more equitable outcomes for all Californians. Why stop here? We hope that one day, all benefits will be this easy to access. The GetCalFresh approach of removing barriers can be applied to SNAP and other social safety net programs nationwide. We are currently laying the groundwork for national expansion to help other states and federal agencies re-envision the digital enrollment experience.

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What people are saying about GetCalFresh

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