Landmark Package Championed by California Legislative Leaders
Today President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris released the American Families Plan. The California Association of Food Banks applauds this bold, comprehensive plan that will make significant strides towards a hunger-free future for millions of families and people across the country who are struggling to make ends meet. This continues this Administration’s impactful work fighting hunger and poverty, which began with the American Rescue Plan and several actions by the USDA and other agencies.
Right now, California is in the midst of a hunger crisis and a response like the America Families Plan is necessary and critical for our state. In California, while food insecurity is at the lowest point since the COVID-19 pandemic began (19.8% in March 2021), it still remains more than double the pre-pandemic levels (9.9% in 2019), with deep inequities for low-income communities of color. For households in California with children, a shocking 35.5% of Black households, and 27.3% of Hispanic or Latinx households are experiencing food insecurity, compared with 15.6% of White households.
Unsurprisingly given these numbers, many food banks are still reporting serving double the number of people compared to before the pandemic, with the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank — the state’s largest food bank — reporting a three-fold increase in the number of people it serves each month.
While we work to reduce the rates of hunger in California, we should not endeavor to “go back to normal” — which would mean 4 million Californians still experiencing hunger — rather, we should seize this moment to work towards a hunger-free future once and for all.
We strongly urge Congress to swiftly enact these important policies to fight hunger, including:
- Expand and make permanent summer EBT nationwide to all children eligible for free and reduced-price meals.
- Advance free school meals for all children by improving the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP), and expanding the Direct Certification process.
- Launch a healthy foods incentive demonstration, by supporting school nutrition departments and their workforce to provide healthier school meals.
- Facilitate re-entry for formerly incarcerated individuals through CalFresh / SNAP eligibility by removing the restriction on people with a drug-felony conviction to receive CalFresh / SNAP grounded in the racially-motivated, failed War on Drugs.
CAFB further applauds the many measures to address the root causes of poverty and systemic racism that lead to hunger, including:
- Universal pre-school for all three and four year olds.
- National Paid Family and Medical Leave for twelve weeks and up to $4,000 a month for workers.
- Two years of free community college to all Americans, including DREAMers, and increased Pell Grants for low-income students.
- Investments in training and leadership opportunities for teachers.
CAFB has long called for many of these policies to be enacted, and we honor the work by California leaders to advance them, including:
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Lofgren to establish and improve Pandemic EBT.
- Rep. Mike Levin and Rep. Susan Davis to provide permanent nationwide Summer EBT in the Stop Child Hunger Act (116th Congress, H.R. 3378).
- Rep. Barbara Lee (Removing Barriers to Basic Needs Act – H.R. 7916) to undo racist CalFresh / SNAP restrictions on individuals with drug felonies, achieved in California through the state Budget Act of 2014-15 thanks to Senator Loni Hancock and then Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.
- Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Roybal-Allard for creating a Blueprint to End Child Poverty.
- State Senator Nancy Skinner for SB 364 currently in the California Legislature that would provide free school meals for all children, enact Better Out of School Time Nutrition EBT when school meals are not available during breaks or disaster, incentivize healthy California grown foods provided by our school lunch workforce, and protect student privacy.
We again call on Congress to enact these policies into law and continue this historic march against hunger and the underlying causes of poverty and systemic racism.
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