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Our day on Capitol Hill

March 5, 2020

Yesterday, a bunch of us anti-hunger advocates from throughout California descended on Capitol Hill.

We were there to demand that California’s legislators protect and strengthen SNAP and other safety net programs, and acknowledge the pervasive impact of hunger and poverty throughout the state. Luckily, we have some food security champions in California who stand with us and with our hungry community-members — which made many of the meetings rather easy.

Our fearless leader Andrew Cheyne, CA Food Banks director of government affairs, said it quite eloquently, “We are here, in person, to relay first-hand accounts of how the attacks on SNAP — our nation’s most important nutrition safety net — are already having a detrimental impact on our hungry community members. As more rule changes to the program are published this year, we will see hunger and poverty ripple through our community at rates we haven’t seen in generations.”

Our primary requests were:

  • Protect and strengthen SNAP: the program pulls more Californians out of poverty than any other anti-poverty program
  • Support lawsuit joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra seeking an injunction to the new ABAWD rule: If this rule goes into effect, food banks cannot fill the hunger gap — hunger and poverty will worsen throughout our state
  • You can see our full legislative agenda here and our appropriations requests here

In total there were more than 30 of us, including four CA Food Banks staffers as well as representatives from Alameda County Community Food Bank, California Emergency Foodlink, Feeding San Diego, Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, Imperial Valley Food Bank, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, LA Regional Food Bank, Orange County Food Bank, Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, and SF-Marin Food Bank.

We also teamed up with our partners at California Food Policy Advocates, San Diego Hunger Coalition, and Western Center on Law & Poverty, since we’re stronger together and we’re all in it for the same reason: to end hunger in California (and beyond).

We started our day by meeting in the Hart Building cafeteria on the Senate side of Capitol Hill. Once our gaggle was fully gathered, stocked with handouts, and prepped with talking points we made our way to the office of Senator Kamala Harris and then to office of Senator Dianne Feinstein. Both Senators’ offices warmly welcomed us and assured us that they will continue to be anti-hunger leaders. Then, we all dispersed to the halls of Congress to meet with our various representatives — given that California has 53 in total, it was bound to be a busy day.

There were two standout meetings for me, first was talking with Representative Vargas. He’s a prolific conversationalist and his candor was quite heartening. From sharing his opinions on gun control to telling us our bill and appropriations requests were just basic common sense, the unscheduled extra 15 minutes with the Member was well worth all our time and fun to boot. The second standout was meeting Representative Lee, because not only is she my representative (and that of the CA Food Banks HQ), we had the chance to go meet her in the Capitol where she was spending the day in a child poverty hearing. More than that, talking to Representative Lee is preaching to the choir and it’s always nice to be able to say thank you to our legislative leaders in person. It was also pretty cool to learn that Representative Swalwell staffer Art Motto started a food pantry when he was in college. 

All is all, it was an inspiring and tiring day. (You can view photos here.)

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