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For the past few weeks, I have had the pleasure of helping FFAC reach families in Oakland, California to educate them on Mandela Grocery Cooperative’s benefits and the government aid available to them, specifically the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) benefits.
P-EBT is a coronavirus-specific California government aid program where families can receive up to $365 per child in each eligible household to spend on strictly consumable items. A majority of families that were eligible automatically received it by the end of May. Families who have not received aid but still qualify can apply online by no later than July 15!
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FFAC focuses on education and social justice issues and as such recognizes that its commitment to community is most needed in times such as these where families are going hungry in the midst of a pandemic.
These low-income families need all the resources and support they can get from their community, and FFAC is helping to streamline this in the Oakland community.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the closure of most public spaces in order to stop and reduce the transmission of the virus, including public schools. Public schools are often a safe haven for the children of low income or broken families who experience food insecurity and rely heavily on what is offered at school. With the onset of coronavirus restrictions, public schools closed, the meals stopped, and many families suddenly became qualified for free or reduced lunch due to the loss of their jobs. To supplement the meals lost, measures have been taken by numerous public schools in California to still provide free meals to families during this time where parents can pick up free food packages for their children at selective school sites. However, even with these “grab-n-go” meals being offered, low-income families still face the challenge of picking them up due to health and safety concerns, shelter-in-place restrictions, transportation issues, parents having to work during the pickup times, and other barriers faced by low income families. These low-income families need all the resources and support they can get from their community, and FFAC is helping to streamline this in the Oakland community.
Other community oriented organizations can follow this model of outreach and start connecting to the backbone of what keeps communities together: educators.
I have been actively committed to delivering this information and resources to these families, specifically Spanish-speaking households, to ensure that regardless of language barriers these families are aware of the resources available to them. Even though my Spanish was rusty, I contacted these families individually by phone and provided the information to them however they preferred based on their technological needs, establishing clear communication in the process. I answered any questions they had and I encouraged them to look into applying! This work is crucial because some families did not become aware of P-EBT until I had informed them. I also discussed with them the discount that Mandela Grocery Cooperative offers which is 50% off California grown fruits and vegetables from Mandela Grocery Cooperative if they purchase with their P-EBT card. For what they spend on groceries at Mandela Grocery Cooperative, they can get twice the value of their nutritious groceries!
Doing this work for the FFAC is an exemplary display of what organizations can accomplish when they are community focused: reaching out to families and maintaining communication helps to maintain healthy households. Other community oriented organizations can follow this model of outreach and start connecting to the backbone of what keeps communities together: educators.
For more specific information or other questions on applying for P-EBT, visit https://www.cdss.ca.gov/home/pandemic-ebt
For information in general about government benefits for children, adults, foster families, low-income families, and other demographics visit https://www.cdss.ca.gov/benefits-services
Joleen Gomez is a first generation low income college student attending UC Berkeley as a third year and hopes to not only set an accomplished example for her six siblings, but also to improve awareness about sustainability issues wherever she goes.