Oakland Food Stamp Program Uses Technology to Strengthen Outreach (Continued)
Program Provides Model for Other Food Stamp Efforts Across the Country
Children spin the “free food prize wheel” at the outreach Fun Fair. Pencils, stickers and bracelets also are awarded for answering questions about nutrition.
As the pilot program approaches the end of its first year, 515 households have been prescreened and guided through the application process. Of those, about one-half were eventually deemed to be potentially eligible. This is a fairly typical percentage of approval for food stamp applications. The goal in the second year is to reach another 500 households. There is a lot of interest in food stamp outreach in Alameda County and throughout California, because the need and the opportunity are both great. California currently is one of the lowest ranked states for food stamp take-up—ranking 47th out of the 50 states.
The lessons learned through the Oakland Work Supports Pilot may be helpful to other food stamp outreach efforts. The pilot program has tackled the tough problems of working with a widely diverse community by using multi-lingual residents to help reach eligible families and developing a tool that works from the initial contact all the way through to the application submission. The county has become comfortable with FAST as a viable way to handle the application process. Anything Alameda County learns can provide a model for other counties in California or across the country. The pilot partners are now looking at how the technology might be used in other ways to connect families to financial education, bank accounts and other asset-building strategies. In this case, the local EITC campaign would be a natural partner.
The enthusiasm and dedication of the organizations and individuals who are working with the program are palpable. As Deb Montesinos, the Making Connections Oakland site coordinator explains, “This partnership is resulting in concrete benefits for families—it’s there, it’s available. Families can come in today, get food stamps, go to the grocery store and get food. It’s that concrete. Lots of folks in the community wouldn’t have access to this without the work of the partnership. We’re glad that we can help make it happen.”