SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — As thousands of families and individuals continue to struggle amid the pandemic, those participating in the CalFresh food assistance program can expect a much-needed increase in benefits. 

Known federally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), it provides monthly food benefits to low-income individuals and families.

But amid the pandemic, local food banks throughout the county have stepped in to provide much-needed food to those who suddenly lost their jobs or saw a decrease in income.

“At Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, the pandemic hit immediately, we saw the level of need just go through the roof,” said Tracy Weatherby vice president of strategy and advocacy for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. 

“We had to very quickly change all our operations, we started moving to having drive-thrus, we had to box in our warehouses, at the peak we had 140 National Guards helping us box in our warehouses.”

According to CalFresh, in Santa Clara County the poverty rate is now 16% and with more than 1,500 people signing up each month for CalFresh benefits. 

Now, due to COVID-19 — a temporary 15 % increase in CalFresh Food benefits will be made available for those who qualify up until June 30. 

The new increase in benefits will be added to participants’ monthly benefits on their normal issuance date. 

In partnership with Santa Clara County social services agency, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley helps applicants enroll in the CalFresh program. 

“We have multilingual staff that will help people figure out if they can qualify and get access to those benefits which provide people with an EBT card that allows them to buy some groceries of their own at the grocery store,” Weatherby said. 

“And this is a really important systemic support for families that allows people to buy healthy foods at the grocery store.”

But despite the added benefits, Weatherby tells KRON4 News it is still not enough for some families and individuals as many relied on local food banks to supplement the food they need for the very first time in their lives. 

Second Harvest now serves more than 500,000 people a month.

“We love to see the CalFresh program permanently be made more generous, so people can support their food needs in that way, it is a great way to do that,” Weatherby said. 

“For years, food banks have been advocating for moving towards what’s called a low-cost food plan, which would be slightly more appropriate especially for a high-cost area like the one that we live in.”

In addition, college students struggling to put on the table may be eligible to qualify for CalFresh benefits. 

To learn more about CalFresh, visit the county’s social services agency website or for assistance visit Second Harvest of Silicon Valley’s website for more information. 

You can also call Second Harvest of Silicon Valley at 408-266-8866.