In Sonoma County, grants for Calfresh—of the federal food stamp program—shot up by 24 percent in June, more than doubling the number of aid recipients since 2008, according to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.
Despite the soaring numbers (31,000 registered in June) county staff estimate more than half eligible parties aren't receiving any federal aid for nutrition.
According to health advocates, the $15 million left unspent in county aid means more spending long-term to counteract poor health.
“Some of our most significant health problems are directly related to what people eat,” said Mary Maddux-Gonzalez, a Redwood Community Health Coalition medical officer, to the Press Democrat.
Officials hope that a recent redesign of CalFresh will make it easier for low income populations to access the program. Rather than requiring several in-person visits, , and be aided by several local centers.
At Sonoma's La Luz Center, applications rolling out the new online system.
But experts think that the continued discrepancy in recipiants stems from fear of deportation and confusion among immigrant applications. The CalFresh program accepts U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who've lived in the country for five years, receive disability benefits, or are under 18. The legal families and children of illegal immigrants are also entitled to assistance.
But receiving food stamps doesn't mean a family is home free. Currently the freshest sources of produce, Sonoma's farmers markets, —though several are working to implament a payment system this year.
And the slim food stamp budget leaves little room for price fluctuations or indulgence.
Read Sonoma Patch writer Morgan Ray's account of a .