The Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Stockton (CCST) CalFresh Outreach program (CFO) provides free application assistance and retention services to low-income individuals in both San Joaquin and Stanislaus County. The CFO program assists clients in completing a new application and helping to gather and submit all required verifications to streamline the process for the client. In an effort to increase enrollments, CCST’s CFO program partners with other local organizations that work with low-income populations to do outreach and provide assistance when needed. Prior to COVID 19, the CalFresh Healthy Living Program would invite the CFO staff to offer a presentation at the beginning of every series nutrition class, which included a general overview of CalFresh benefits and the services available to them. This was very beneficial to the CFHL participants who had an opportunity to apply for benefits or get assistance before or after the nutrition class. During the pandemic, the CFHL program began delivering workshops and other activities virtually. The challenge was to figure out how to continue the great partnership and create a process to connect CalFresh Healthy Living clients virtually with CalFresh Outreach services.
During the pandemic, CFHL staff heard personal accounts from clients who were experiencing hardships during the unprecedented times. Many shared that they had lost their job or hours were reduced, creating uncertainty for many. It was very apparent there was a great need for resources. This need not only came from clients who had received benefits in the past and were familiar, but from those who had never received benefits as well. Clients had a lot of confusion, and having CFO staff present to talk through the process is key to a client submitting a successful application. Staff from both programs came together to figure out a new process to deliver virtual classes and support clients with applying for CalFresh, while exploring a platform that would work for the participants.
CFHL staff began delivering virtual workshops using Facebook Live and connecting the participants to the other resources including CalFresh benefits. After several discussions and trials and errors, the CFO program was able to join the Facebook Live classes and present to the participants. The CFO staff would give a description of the benefits, general eligibility, and how services were being conducted remotely. Due to the pandemic, there were many changes with the CalFresh benefits, and this allowed the participants to hear current and accurate information and get the assistance they needed.