Over 3 million Californians use CalFresh, California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). CalFresh offers individuals and families a food and nutrition safety net. Californians saw a boost in their allotments during the COVID-19 pandemic: however, those are coming to an end.
Across L.A County community-based organizations are actively doing outreach to enroll community members in CalFresh. Community-based organizations meet people where they are, often have lived experience, and share the cultural and linguistic needs of community members.
A community kick off event and resource fair was held Thursday, May 4th at Amelia Mayberry Park in Whittier, CA to highlight CalFresh Awareness Month and connect families with this vital program.
Other community events will be held throughout the month of May in partnership with 88 cities in the county, university and community college campuses, school districts, farmers markets, churches and others.
This model of building on community networks has served as a “best practice” outreach strategy that has been implemented by other counties across California.
Partnerships like these are possible thanks to funding from the Federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services and Department of Public Health administer grants to community-based organizations who can raise awareness around food access and assist community members in registering for CalFresh.
A recent study by the Public Exchange at the USC Dornsife College found that over 800,000 households in LA county experienced food insecurity between July 2021 to July 2022, an increase of 24% from the previous year. The impact on Black and Latino residents was three times higher than white residents.
The hunger cliff continues to loom over many Californians. Without Congressional and State action, many Californians will see a steep decrease in their allotments, leading to preventable hunger.
While politics are at play in the national scene, in our state there are important legislative efforts to increase CalFresh benefits, which have not kept pace with inflation. SB 600 by Senator Caroline Menjivar, co-sponsored by advocates like GRACE/End Child Poverty CA and Nourish CA, would raise the CalFresh minimum benefit to $50 a month.
Food insecurity will be felt by communities that already face unjust economic and health disparities. Seniors are one of the many groups affected and in March we covered the story of two seniors struggling with food insecurity during their retirement.
It doesn’t have to be this way. California, as the 4th largest economy in the nation, has the means and resources to ensure no one goes hungry. Food insecurity, like many other disparities, is entirely preventable. The pandemic showed how resources that are justly allocated can save lives and end poverty; will our lawmakers step up to prevent our State’s growing food insecurity?