Addressing Hunger in Yolo County

In Yolo County, 1 in 6 people and 1 in 4 children are suffering from food insecurity, not knowing where their next meal will come from. The impacts of food insecurity are vast. In a county with an abundance of agriculture, there are many efforts to connect hungry residents with healthy food.

In 2013 Yolo County was ranked 56th in CalFresh participation rate. This means that of residents eligible for the Federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps), a very low number of residents actually enroll. The City of Davis had the lowest participation rate (8.4%) largely due to under enrollment of UC Davis students. Yolo County collaborated with UC Davis to increase CalFresh enrollment on campus. By strategically placing a county staff member on campus at key locations and times, we have been able to increase the number of students receiving support to access healthy food.

Since Yolo County increased our focus on enrollment, the average number of residents enrolled in the CalFresh program per month has increased nearly 20% between 2013 and 2016. Yolo County is now ranked 53rd in CalFresh participation. While there has been improvement, there are more residents who are eligible for food assistance. Studies show that every $1 in CalFresh benefits generates an estimated $1.70 in economic activity. Enrolling residents in CalFresh helps address hunger and increases economic activity in our communities.

In 2016, Yolo County rolled out an innovative new program, FreshTEXT, to connect hungry residents with local food distribution. Through 211 Yolo’s countywide text platform, a user opts-in by texting to 888777 a designated keyword for the city of their choice. (i.e. Tomato for the City of Davis & AGGIES for UC Davis.) The user is then automatically enrolled to receive reminders of free food distributions near them and can opt-out at any time. MarketText uses the same platform to connect participants with information about farmers’ markets and farmstands that accept EBT, Market Match and WIC Farmers’ Market Coupons.

Thanks to a USDA grant, the Yolo Bonus Bucks pilot program in early 2016 increased fruit and vegetable consumption among CalFresh clients. CalFresh clients received a 50% discount on fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruit and vegetable items at participating grocers. Preliminary results found that produce purchased by Calfresh clients increased from 10% to 27% with the Bonus Bucks program. The top items purchased by CalFresh clients shifted from bananas, milk, Pepsi and hotdogs to fruits and vegetables during the pilot program. Yolo County hopes to offer a similar program in 2017.

I look forward to continuing to partner with many of you as we work to make sure that no resident of Yolo County goes hungry or lacks nutritious food.