CAFB’s Recommendations for the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health
August 10, 2022
This September, President Biden will be hosting the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The goal is to identify strategies to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030 so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension. It’s been more than 50 years since the first and only White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health was held in 1969.
Last month, we held two listening sessions to gather insights and ideas from our network of food banks and members of the California Hunger Action Coalition. We heard directly from people who are experiencing hunger and people who are working on the frontlines to end hunger. We heard from participants from across California representing the North Coast, North Bay, Bay Area, Central Coast, Los Angeles, the Sacramento Valley, and San Diego.
On July 15, we submitted our recommendations informed by these listening sessions to the White House. Our recommendations call on the Administration to center people with lived expertise of hunger and poverty to be at the table in designing the national strategy to end hunger in America. We also urge the White House to ensure a whole-of-government approach, and recognize the need to focus on the root causes of hunger: systemic racism, poverty, unemployment, underemployment, or low income, lack of affordable housing, and chronic health conditions or lack of access to healthcare.
When asked to talk about how hunger impacts people and communities, we heard a wide range of responses. One of the most common points made was that people from all walks of life can experience hunger:
“I actually only eat maybe one time a day or every other day. It’s hard but you have to struggle a lot until things can get better.” –Community member in Los Angeles
“When I was a struggling college student, I got a job at the school cafeteria intentionally so at the end of the night I could stash some of the leftovers behind the dumpster. That was part of my way to be able to afford rent and tuition and be able to feed myself.” –Community member in Oceanside
“For my family, it’s nutrition, the tough choices – am I going to buy something that’s healthy and nutritious or the box food that’s cheaper, like a box of hamburger helper, or be able to cook a meal with fresh ingredients.”–Anti-hunger worker with lived experience
“The biggest surprise for most people is how many people who are working are coming to the food bank. There is a perception that it’s all very low income people. But that’s not the case, especially these days. Many people show up [to food pantries] because their budget doesn’t stretch far enough. Many of them are working.”–Stockton Food Bank Staff
The federal government’s response to the pandemic shows how effective anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs worked. It offers a successful case study for these improvements to be applied permanently. The stories and experiences we heard from community members across the state indicate how these programs are crucial and how they can be improved:
“[Emergency Allotments] kept the bottom from dropping out. If they didn’t exist, we’d have such a higher rate of food insecurity. The Emergency Allotments kept those people stable. It was a huge win in terms of social services and how fast it went out, and the waivers transformed what’s possible in terms of services. It helped people get through this. [Emergency Allotments] going away is terrifying in terms of what the ramifications will be.”–Los Angeles Regional Food Bank staff
“Right now families are getting Emergency Allotments, which have been really helpful. And now a lot of families are really afraid that that’s going to stop and it’s not going to happen anymore. Because they are noticing that it makes a huge difference…One thing the government can do is to raise the minimum levels of benefits, to something more adequate.”–Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz staff
“CalFresh [SNAP] really helped me choose things that were ready to eat, even though we can’t buy hot stuff, but that was really helpful to buy cans of soup and quick things that don’t require cooking. –Community member in Fortuna
“I’m thankful for the CalFresh [SNAP] program but the only thing is when you file for homeless, [the benefit] is so low. They only give you $20 a month. I can’t wrap my head around that. The amount is so low. We don’t have really anything to start with. I hear a lot of stories of families that didn’t have anything before they got CalFresh but has opened up a lot of healthy choices for them. But for myself, it’s a little bit different the dollar amount is really low $20 for the whole month.” –Community member in Los Angeles
“Look at what worked [during the pandemic] using it as a framework on what we should do in terms of improving the adequacy of our programs. P-EBT worked, Universal Meals worked. God knows what would have happened if we didn’t have this.” –Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano staff
The roadmap to end hunger needs to include strategies that address the root causes of hunger, improve government income support, expand and strengthen federal nutrition programs, tailor responses and programs to meet the needs of specific populations and ensure families and individuals have access to safe housing and nutritious food.
“We need equity resources, whether housing equity, education equity, just equity all around. We can’t solve hunger unless we are focused on those items too so that we can all sustain ourselves. When I think of a thriving community I think about equity for all.” –Anti-hunger worker with lived experience
“Childcare needs to be revamped. We can’t expect parents to work if they can’t find affordable childcare.”–Los Angeles Regional Food Bank staff
“The average cost of a home in Orange County is over a million dollars… it just costs so much to live here, it leaves less money to meet other basic needs.” –Community Action Partnership of Orange County staff
“Income eligibility needs to be updated to reflect today’s cost of living.” –Community member
“We need to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage across the nation” –San Luis Obispo Food Bank staff
Our full comments and materials submitted to the White House can be accessed here:
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