The Budget, as proposed, includes just half of food resources needed to support California food banks in feeding Californians through the next fiscal year.
On Friday, Governor Newsom released his May Revise of the 2022-23 state budget, which outlines his vision for California during the next fiscal year. We appreciate its many proposals to address the challenges our state is facing today, and call on our budget leaders to ensure that the final state budget reflects the still record-level of hunger that our communities are experiencing.
Thankfully the state has a historic budget surplus, and we ask that we use this opportunity to fight hunger and poverty in California. Hungry Californians can’t wait – we must act now to ensure that people struggling today are prioritized in our state budget.
Simply put, the combined effect of still record-levels of hunger, a decline in Federal food support, and rising cost of food is creating a crisis for our emergency food bank network:
- Hunger remains alarmingly high in California, and the larger economic and social impact of COVID-19 will no doubt be felt for years to come. Since the beginning of 2022, food insecurity in California has been rising steadily. The latest data shows that 8 million Californians – or just over 20% of our population – are experiencing food insecurity, with deep disparities for Black and Latinx community members. In a recent survey of our food bank members, most reported that they are still serving between 1.5 to 3 times the number of people they were serving pre-Pandemic, and alarmingly, nearly half reported that they are serving between double to triple the number of people compared to 2019. The crisis in food insecurity in California is far from over, and we know from the Great Recession that this reality will likely persist for many years to come.
- At the same time, we are facing a dangerous federal food and benefits cliff. While the federal government provided a robust initial response to the COVID-19 crisis, food banks experienced a federal food cliff of more than 83% from 2020 to 2022 and a 45% drop just from 2021 to 2022. On top of declining Federal support for food banks, people who receive CalFresh (SNAP) benefits will be faced with a dramatic reduction in their food benefits when the Federal Public Health Emergency sunsets, as early as mid-July. When this happens, CalFresh recipients are expected to lose on average $82 per month in Emergency Allotments.
- This is all compounded by record-setting food price inflation, from pandemic related supply shocks and other market disruptions. The most recent Consumer Price Index report highlights that grocery prices have risen by 10.8% in the past year, which is the largest 12-month increase in grocery prices in nearly 42 years. Food banks are reporting that they are spending three times more on purchasing food than they did in 2019.
We offer sincere gratitude for the recognition of the ongoing unprecedented strain on the state’s network of food banks and emergency food providers, and ask for additional investments that reflect the true situation we are in today, and will continue to be in for many years:
- CalFood: We are grateful for $50 Million one-time in the January 10 Budget Proposal, and request an additional $52 Million ongoing for CalFood, and $10 Million one-time. This would bring the total for CalFood in the 2022-23 state budget to $120 Million, an investment that is desperately needed given the still-elevated demand for food, declining Federal support, and rising cost of food.
- Climate & Capacity: One of the top barriers food banks cited in a survey in the fall of 2021 were related to one-time capacity and climate needs, totalling $738 Million. We request $180 million one-time to expand capacity and improve facilities for local food banks, so that they can meet community need for food, and to be resilient in a changing climate to make sure food is available when communities need it most.
- State Disaster Food Assistance Program (SDFAP): This program helps California to be responsive during times of disaster – especially as Federal supports, if they are even available, have a long lag time in becoming active. SDFAP needs to be made permanent and placed in the Welfare and Institutions Code where the state’s other emergency food programs reside. This will help the program to run smoothly and consistently, to ensure it is available during times of disaster.
We are grateful for the investments outlined in the May Revise, and call on Governor Newsom and the Legislature to ensure that the 2022-23 state budget be centered around the needs of people who are struggling to put food on the table today.
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