We are a statewide policy and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the health and well being of low income Californians by increasing their access to nutritious, affordable food.

Program Access Index (PAI)

CFPA's Program Access Index (PAI) estimates CalFresh utilization among
low-income individuals in each of California's 58 counties.

CFPA Primary Contact

Tia Shimada
Nutrition Policy Advocate
Oakland Office
510.433.1122

CalFresh Resources

For more on CalFresh, visit our
CalFresh page.

Measuring County CalFresh Performance in 2009

Press Releases

County-specific press releases are available here:

Full Report

Meauring County CalFresh Performance in 2009: The Program Access Index PDF

What is the PAI?

The Program Access Index (PAI) estimates CalFresh utilization among low-income individuals. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) produces an annual state-level PAI. The PAI provided on this page is a county-level analysis modeled on the USDA methodology. As shown in the general formula below, the county-level PAI estimates CalFresh utilization among individuals who meet three eligibility criteria:

  • Income below 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (FPG)1
  • No participation in the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR)2, and
  • No receipt of Supplemental Security Income (SSI)3

PAI Equation

The PAI incorporates only three CalFresh eligibility criteria. Therefore, it is not a participation rate that measure CalFresh utilization among fully-eligible individuals. However, the PAI can help illuminate county-level differences in CalFresh administration and utilization.

Comparing the PAI and State Participation Rates

Each year, USDA releases SNAP/CalFresh participation rates for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These participation rates are complex estimates of SNAP/CalFresh utilization among eligible individuals. The rates take into account several criteria for food stamp eligibility, including income, household resources, receipt of SSI, and citizenship/immigration status.4 In comparison, the PAI takes into account three CalFresh criteria: income, FDPIR participation, and SSI status.

State participation rates for any given year are typically released two years following. In contrast, the PAI can be calculated within one year.

Using the PAI

USDA state participation rates may be the best available estimates of CalFresh utilization among fully-eligible individuals. However, the rates are calculated as statewide measures and have limited relevance at the county level. USDA does not calculate county-level participation rates. Because CalFresh policies and practices vary across California counties, a county-level indicator of utilization and administrative performance is necessary. The PAI is one such indicator.

The PAI methodology can also be used to estimate, by county, the number of income-eligible individuals who are not participating in the Food Stamp Program. These estimates are available here.

PAI Tables

The tables below show the PAI for all 58 California counties and include county rankings. These tables reflect the most recently available information, which is data from 2009. The number-one-ranked county has the highest PAI score. That is, the number-one-ranked county has the highest CalFresh utilization relative to the total number of income-eligible individuals who do not participate in FDPIR or receive SSI.5

Tables A and B show the most accurate PAI score available for each county.6 Table A lists the counties alphabetically. Table B lists the counties by PAI rank.

For a printable PDF of Tables A and B, click here.

Table A

PAI table with counties listed alphabetically

Table B

PAI table with counties listed by PAI score

Table notes 1-4: PAI is listed here with three significant digits (i.e. three digits to the right of the decimal point).However, the PAI used to calculate the county ranking contained 15 significant digits. Viewed with foursignificant digits, Madera County’s PAI is 0.5774 and Sutter County's PAI is 0.5770. Thus, their respectiveranks are 17 and 18. Similarly:

  • Lake County’s PAI is 0.4751 and Napa County’s PAI is 0.4750.
  • Santa Clara County’s PAI is 0.4604 and Los Angeles County’s PAI is 0.4598.
  • Orange County’s PAI is 0.3353 and San Diego County’s PAI is 0.3348.

* denotes California's 18 smallest counties (by population)

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1 Eligibility criteria for CalFresh allow participants to have incomes up to 130 percent of FPG. However, annual county-level estimates are not available for the number of individuals with incomes below 130 percent of FPG. Therefore, having an income below 125 percentof FPG is used as a proxy for CalFresh income eligibility. The use of this proxy may underestimate the number of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh.

2 FDPIR participants are not eligible for CalFresh.

3 In California, SSI recipients are not eligible for CalFresh.

4 The USDA state participation rates do not take into account FDPIR participation or categorical eligibility. Please see the USDA report Reaching Those in Need: State Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Participation Rates in 2008. PDF

5 For Tables A and B, all Supplemental Security Income (SSI) participants are subtracted from the population of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh. An adjunct set of PAI tables, for which the estimated SSI population with income below 125 percent of FPG is subtracted from the population of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh, is appended in the full report. PDF

6 For Tables A and B, the PAI for the 40 largest counties is calculated using income data from the 2008 American Community Survey (ACS).  Income data for the 18 smallest counties are not available from ACS.  Therefore, the PAI for the 18 smallest counties (denoted by *) is calculated using income data from the 2008 Small Area and Poverty Estimates and the 2000 Census.  Combined, these two methodologies generate the most accurate PAI available for each county.  For more details, please see the methodology in the full report. PDF