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Palo Alto state assemblyman helps curb food insecurity with bill

The first bill proposed by a Palo Alto state assemblyman to be signed into law will make it easier for low-income California residents to access emergency food services.

Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, who was elected in November, said that the bill works to eradicate food insecurity.

The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown signed earlier this month, allows revision to the national 2-1-1 referral service so that residents can use the free phone number or online database to find entities that provide food to needy residents, including those with pending CalFresh applications.

Since it can take up to 30 days for a CalFresh applicant to be approved, the waiting period could hurt families and especially children, who are more likely to incur development impairment that limit their growth as a result of hunger, Berman said.

Jessica Bartholow, a policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, which sponsored the bill, said the bill helps prevent “avoidable hunger.”

“When a child goes hungry because there isn’t a program that serves them, it is a disgrace,” Bartholow said. “When they go hungry because their family doesn’t know about the programs that serve them, it is an insult.”

Access to 2-1-1 will help families with children learn about summer lunch and school meal programs and more, Bartholow said.

Santa Clara County and other counties statewide rely on 2-1-1 to provide timely information around the clock about health and human service programs, joblessness support and disaster response information. The free service is available in 150 languages.

Berman represents the 24th District, which includes cities in northern Santa Clara County and southern San Mateo County.

“Millions of Californians rely on CalFresh to meet their basic nutritional needs, so it is imperative that they have timely access to emergency food aid,” Berman said. The bill employs available technology to immediately refer individuals and families to food providers, Berman said.

Under existing law, county human service agencies only are required to have a list of emergency food providers on hand and distribute the list upon request, Berman said in a news release.

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