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Money Has Run Out for Fruits and Vegetables for Low-Income Californians. Elected Leaders Are Silent.

The fresh food rebate pilot program delivered on its promises, but politicians won’t promise to put it in the budget.

By George B. Sanchez-Tello

12:08 PM PDT on May 20, 2024

This article is co-published with Capital & Main, an award-winning publication covering policy in California.

More than 50 people stood dressed in jackets and hats against the heavy spring wind outside the Mother’s Nutritional Center grocery store in El Monte on the morning of April 12. People started lining up an hour before the store’s 9 a.m. opening time, and so many showed up that when the doors opened, only five customers at a time were allowed in. 

Every morning that week was the same: A crowd gathered outside the store before it opened. The low-income residents who had qualified for public food assistance were able to get rebates on fruits and vegetables, which could be used to buy more food. 

But the money for the rebate program—CalFresh Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot—had run out in about five months at grocery stores in Southern California, and word got out that it was to end on April 14, or Sunday of that week. The people wanted to stock up while they could still afford to do so. (EBT stands for “electronic benefits transfer,” the method by which benefits are awarded through a debit-style card.)

More than 50 people stood dressed in jackets and hats against the heavy spring wind outside the Mother’s Nutritional Center grocery store in El Monte on the morning of April 12. People started lining up an hour before the store’s 9 a.m. opening time, and so many showed up that when the doors opened, only five customers at a time were allowed in. 

Every morning that week was the same: A crowd gathered outside the store before it opened. The low-income residents who had qualified for public food assistance were able to get rebates on fruits and vegetables, which could be used to buy more food. 

But the money for the rebate program—CalFresh Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot—had run out in about five months at grocery stores in Southern California, and word got out that it was to end on April 14, or Sunday of that week. The people wanted to stock up while they could still afford to do so. (EBT stands for “electronic benefits transfer,” the method by which benefits are awarded through a debit-style card.)

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