SACRAMENTO – Today Governor Brown signed a bill by Assemblymember Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) to connect families to nutrition assistance programs. Assembly Bill 323 will allow counties to connect CalFresh applicants to emergency food providers through a referral to 2-1-1 services.
“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,” said Berman. “AB 323 takes a meaningful step towards curbing hunger by employing technology to immediately refer individuals and families to reliable food providers.”
2-1-1 is a free phone number and online database that connects Californians to health and human service programs, joblessness support and disaster response information in their communities. As a best practice, eleven counties utilize 2-1-1 referrals to provide up-to-date information, around-the-clock and in 150 languages. Under existing law, County Human Services Agencies are only required to maintain a physical list of emergency food providers and distribute it upon request.
“When a child goes hungry because there isn’t a program that serves them, it is a disgrace. When they go hungry because their family doesn’t know about the programs that serve them, it is an insult,” says Jessica Bartholow, Policy Advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the bill’s sponsor. “AB 323 will help prevent the insult of avoidable hunger among children by ensuring that CalFresh applicant families with children know about summer lunch, school meals and other programs to prevent child hunger while their CalFresh application is pending.”
It can take up to 30 days for a CalFresh application to be reviewed and approved. This waiting period can be detrimental to families, and particularly to children who are more likely to incur development impairments that limit their physical, intellectual, and emotional growth as a result of hunger.