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

CalFresh Resources

For more on CalFresh, visit our
CalFresh page.


Please note that a revised iteration of the 2010 Program Access Index was released in March 2013. The revision corrects for an overestimation of individuals with incomes below 125 percent of poverty. The results of the revised analysis are shown in the data tables of the full report and in the tables included below but not in the county press releases. We sincerely regret the error in the initial analysis and have taken steps to prevent similar issues in the future.

Measuring County CalFresh Performance in 2010

Press Releases

County-specific press releases are available here:

Full Report

Meauring County CalFresh Performance in 2010: The Program Access Index PDF

Please note that the methodology used to generate the 2010 Program Access Index (PAI) differs from the methodology used in years past. This adjustment was necessary due to a change in available data sources. For full details, please see the Methodology section of the full report.

County Data Tables

Tables showing the PAI for all California counties are available below.

What is the PAI?

The 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 threshold1
  • 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 utilization by comparing the number of individuals who meet select CalFresh eligibility criteria and the number of individuals who actually receive CalFresh benefits.

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 factors affecting SNAP/CalFresh eligibility and utilization. In comparison, the PAI takes into account three CalFresh criteria: income, FDPIR participation, and SSI status.

USDA state participation rates may be the best available estimates of CalFresh utilization among eligible individuals. However, the rates are calculated as statewide measures and have limited relevance at the county level, particularly in a state as diverse as California. USDA does not calculate county-level participation rates.

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

Using the PAI

Because CalFresh policies and practices vary among California counties, county-level measures that assess the extent to which CalFresh administrators reach and serve the eligible popualtion are critical. The PAI is one such measure because CalFresh administration affects a central component of the PAI calculation: the number of individuals receiving CalFresh benefits. On its own, the PAI is not a comprehensire tool for evaluating counties' administration of CalFresh. Advocates and administrators should work to establish the use of additional indicators in assessing CalFresh administrative performance.

The county-level PAI is not designed to definitively establish trends over time. There are two primary challenges with using the PAI in this manner:

  1. Methodological approaches may change over time, altering the comparability of PAI estimates calculated before and after each change.
  2. Income data from the American Community Survey are used to calculate the PAI. These data have a given level of precision expressed as a margin of error. Margins of error can make it difficult to distinguish true trends from variations inherent to the methods used for collecting and analyzing survey data.

PAI Tables

The tables below show the PAI for all 58 California counties and include county rankings. 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

Table 1 lists the counties alphabetically. Table 2 lists the counties by PAI rank.

Printable version of Tables 1 and 2 PDF

Table 1: PAI for all Counties Listed Alphabetically

PAI table with counties listed alphabetically

Table 2: PAI for all Counties Listed by Rank

PAI table with counties listed by rank

Table notes 1-4: The PAI is listed here with three significant digits. However, the PAI used to calculate the county ranking contained 15 significant digits. Viewed with four significant digits, Sierra County's PAI is 0.6938 and Inyo County's PAI is 0.6937. Thus, their respective ranks are 23 and 24. Similarly, Los Angeles County's PAI is 0.5530 and Mariposa County's PAI is 0.5529; Modoc County's PAI is 0.5358 and San Francisco County's PAI is 0.5356; and Marin County's PAI is 0.4014 while Colusa County's PAI is 0.4010.


1 Eligibility criteria for CalFresh allow participants to have incomes up to 130 percent of the federal poverty guidelines (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 percent the federal poverty threshold 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.

5 For Tables 1 and 2, 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 poverty is subtracted from the population of individuals who are income-eligible for CalFresh, is appended in the full report. PDF