Much More Needed to Address Record Food Insecurity Driven by COVID-19 Crisis
Today, Governor Gavin Newsom released his May Revision Budget, updating his vision for the 2021-22 State Budget that begins July 1. The State is reporting approximately $100 billion in available surplus between the substantial state revenues, as well as federal funds thanks to the American Rescue Plan by President Biden and Vice President Harris.
We thank the Governor for several important policies in the Budget Revision, including key strides toward universal school meals, restoring SSP grants, Health For All, the basic needs of college students, and other important priorities.
We must be clear, however, that much more is needed to address the scale and magnitude of hunger that currently impacts 8 million Californians. There are no new investments in the emergency food system that continues to serve record community demand for food.
And, the Budget must not miss this landmark opportunity to achieve permanent school meals for all, finally restore SSP grants after a decade of cuts, provide assistance to those excluded from federal aid, and other policies that address hunger and the root cause of poverty.
Especially given the State’s budget condition, we must learn the lessons of the Great Recession, making the investments now to prevent a decade of hardship and address the hunger crisis in communities across California.
No one should go hungry in our great state. Yet food insecurity remains more than double the pre-pandemic levels, with deep inequities for low-income communities of color (an astonishing 35.5% Black families with children are food insecure).
Nowhere is this seen more acutely than the long lines at food banks.
A survey of CAFB member food banks showed impact of the pandemic, between 2019 and 2020:
California Association of Food Banks specifically calls for the following investments, and applauds the leadership of the legislative champions for each of these critical issues:
Bolster the emergency food network through COVID-19 & beyond:
CAFB appreciates the steps taken in the May Revision on the broader food and anti-poverty safety net, but calls for much more in the final Budget Act:
- Free School Meals for All, Better Out of School Time nutrition when schools are closed, and Healthy California Grown School Foods (Sen. Skinner).
- We applaud the Governor for embracing the concept of universal school meals, as well as showing strong support for school kitchens and workforce, and the farm-to-school program. The proposed investment, however, falls short of School Meals for All as the permanent policy in California, which 177 organizations joined in support of as a budget priority, and reflects the child hunger crisis.
- Emerson National Hunger Fellow Rocio Perez conducted first-in-the-nation research with 1,400 families who spoke powerfully to the need for the both/and approach of school meals for all and robust out of school nutrition options.
- We look forward to working with the Governor and Legislature to ensure that universal breakfast, lunch, and out-of-school-time meals are included in the 2021-22 Budget with sufficient funding to make this a reality while preventing school meal debt for parents and deficits for schools.
- Emergency food assistance for all low-income Californians – this was not included, and the State must focus state aid on those excluded from pandemic relief who are on the front lines of COVID-19 (Asm. Santiago).
- Reverse the devastating SSI / SSP grant cuts that have forced a million older adults and people with disabilities — disproportionately women and people of color — into poverty.
- The 6.4% increase would increase grants by approximately $10 a month, and California is long overdue to make whole SSI individuals and couples back to 2008 levels, before the cuts were enacted.
- Health for All — we applaud Medi-Cal Coverage to undocumented older adults, and renew our call to eliminate the Medi-Cal Asset Test.
- CalWORKs — the Revised Budget makes key investments in the Housing Support Program and Family Reunification, and limits overpayments. The 5.3% grant increase, however, falls far short of ensuring all families are at least at 55% of the federal poverty level.
- Meeting the basic needs of college students — investments include increasing affordable housing and supporting basic needs centers at Community Colleges.
- Edible Food Recovery — the $5 million for the Food Waste Prevention and Rescue Grant Program continues this proven program, and we call for $200 million one-time in the Cap-and Trade program for local jurisdictions to implement SB 1383.
We thank the Senate for keying many of CAFB’s emergency food, school meal, SSI, and other priorities in the Build Back Boldly framework, and the Assembly for their strong budget blueprint.
“We applaud the Governor for recognizing the ongoing crisis of hunger and hardship created by COVID-19, and more needs to be done in this budget to combat that crisis. Food banks know first-hand that this elevated need will last for years, and we call on the Governor and Legislature to make substantial, additional investments in the emergency food system and safety net programs to create a long-term impact. Hungry parents can’t save for a rainy day if their children don’t have enough to eat, and we need the State to maximize this historic surplus to work towards a hunger-free future for California.”Andrew Cheyne, Director of Government Affairs
We call on the Governor, Administration, and Legislature to prioritize addressing record hunger in the 2021 Budget Act. We look forward to working with all stakeholders in the final phase of the budget process to enact these critical policies.
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