Yesterday, Governor Newsom signed the Budget Act of 2023 (AB/SB 102), which protects critical programs and makes investments to support California’s most vulnerable communities while facing the reality of a projected $31.5 billion state budget deficit.
We are grateful that this Administration and Legislature remained firmly committed to creating a State budget that protects California’s progress, as well as lays the groundwork for California to fully maximize Federally funded anti-hunger programs. We learned the hard lesson from the Great Recession that cutting and delaying funding for life-saving social safety net programs has devastating outcomes for not only individuals and families facing challenging economic times but also whole communities and the entire state.
With the ending of CalFresh Emergency Allotments and the soaring cost of food, hunger is again on the rise. More than 1 in 5 California households face the toxic stress and economic uncertainty of food insecurity. Communities of color — Black and Latine households in particular — are experiencing disproportionate impacts. Food banks are responding to this increasing hunger crisis; many are serving up to 50% more people compared to early 2023. Yet, food banks cannot prevent hunger alone.
We commend Governor Newsom, Senator Skinner, Assemblymember Ting, and the Legislature for their vision and commitment to prioritizing Californians experiencing hunger and poverty today. In particular, we are grateful for these critically needed investments in California’s core anti-hunger programs, and we look forward to working with partners and stakeholders to implement these priorities and continue to build on this momentum in 2024:
- CalFood: $60 million one-time to be spent over two years, enabling food banks to purchase California-grown foods to distribute across their communities. Each dollar in CalFood enables California food banks to provide approximately five meals. Food banks use these precious dollars to purchase healthy, expensive items like eggs that are rarely donated, and meet the local cultural needs of their communities. We thank Senator Laird and Assemblymember Wicks for their long-standing commitment to supporting California food banks and ensuring this program continues to be prioritized in the state budget.
- CalFresh Minimum Nutrition Benefit Pilot Program: $15 million for a CalFresh $50 minimum benefit pilot program (increasing from $23). It is well documented that $23 per month is woefully inadequate for groceries; it is barely enough to cover a week’s worth of basics, like a loaf of bread, a gallon of milk, and a dozen eggs. Thanks to Senator Menjivar’s tireless advocacy, California will proudly be taking its first step towards increasing the CalFresh minimum statewide.
- School and Summer Meals: We are grateful for Senator Skinner’s bold leadership in ensuring School Meals for All remains a top priority for California, and for investments to enable California to fully maximize Federal nutrition programs for children.
- School Meals for All: More than $300 million in new investments to fully implement and ensure free school meals for all children. In 2021 California became the first state in the country to pass School Meals for All, and we have just wrapped up our first school year where all children in California could receive two free meals a day at school.
- Summer EBT: $47 million for implementation in 2024 for outreach and automation costs to phase in the new federal Summer EBT program for children who qualify for free or reduced-price school meals beginning summer 2024.
In addition, we are thankful for the many other anti-hunger and anti-poverty priorities that are funded in the Budget Act of 2023:
- CalFresh and CalWORKs EBT theft protection: $76.5 million for technology and EBT card upgrades to prevent EBT theft and skimming.
- Reimbursement of Skimmed EBT CalFresh Benefits: $42.9 million for administering and automating California’s plan to restore stolen benefits.
- Food 4 All: $40 million for an accelerated implementation of California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) benefits to begin issuance in October 2025 instead of January 2027.
- CalFresh Fruit and Vegetable EBT Pilot: $9.9 million for a broader California Fruit and Vegetable EBT pilot program.
- CalFresh Safe Drinking Water Pilot: $3 million to extend a CalFresh pilot to buy safe drinking water.
- SSI / SSP: Grant increase of 8.6%, effective January 2024.
- CalWORKs: Provides $500 million in ongoing funds beginning in 2024-25 to turn a temporary 10% grant increase into a permanent grant increase to support California families struggling the most.
- Child Care: Historic restructuring of family fees, capping them at 1% of family income and preventing the collection of family fee debts from the pandemic.
- California’s Safety Net Reserve: Rejects proposed use of the Safety Net Reserve for purposes not intended for the reserve.
We thank our member food banks, anti-hunger partners, and advocates across California who joined us in advocating for many of these priorities included in the final State budget, and we thank the Governor and Legislature for listening to our communities. As we look ahead, we will continue to work with California leadership to help those in need by making the CalFresh Minimum Pilot a permanent statewide program, protecting Californians from the cruel and ineffective Federal ABAWD time limits, and supporting our food banks and communities in disaster resilience.