CalFresh Senior Participation Rate Improving, More Progress Needed


Published on Aug 5, 2021 in CalFresh, Federal Advocacy, Older Adults, State Administration, State Legislation

Each year, Mathematica Policy Research and USDA publish the “Reaching Those in Need” report with estimates of the percentage of eligible persons, by state, who participated in SNAP (CalFresh in California). This year’s report, with estimates from 2018, also includes the most recent data on SNAP/CalFresh participation rates among seniors age 60 and over. It shows that California has made some improvement in reaching eligible seniors with CalFresh, but that more needs to be done to better connect older Californians with nutrition assistance.

Overall, California ranks 47th of all states, with 32 percent of eligible seniors receiving CalFresh in 2018. While that is an improvement from prior years when California ranked last among all states, over two-thirds of eligible older adults are still not receiving the nutrition assistance to which they are entitled. With California’s rapidly aging population, and the harsh lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state should continue to prioritize easing the application burden and improving outreach partnerships with organizations that serve older adults.

What’s next?

We recently highlighted actions by the state to streamline CalFresh access for seniors as recommended in the state’s Master Plan for Aging. We also look forward to working with CDSS, County Welfare Departments, CalFresh advocates, and older adults and disability rights stakeholders to design a new, simplified application for older adults and people with disabilities.

We also plan to work with our federal partners at USDA and the Social Security Administration to promote better data sharing and dual enrollment processes between Social Security and SNAP/CalFresh. Many states have implemented “Combined Application Projects” that allow people to apply for SSI and SNAP simultaneously. We urge the USDA and SSA to build upon those successful models to allow older adults with low income to be seamlessly enrolled in SNAP when they begin receiving SSI. 

Want to learn more?

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Questions? Contact Jared Call at