The San Diego Hunger Coalition was founded on Thanksgiving Day in 1974, when a group of caring San Diegans banded together to address local concern over hunger. The Coalition’s first advocacy campaign was in 1975 with the support of SB 530, proposed legislation that would enable local stores to donate their damaged food for anti-hunger efforts.
For the first three years of program operation, the Hunger Coalition existed as a project of the San Diego Ecumenical Conference. In order to obtain more independence, in 1977, the Hunger Coalition developed by-laws and applied for 501(c)3 tax exempt status as an association. Throughout its initial 15 years of service, the SDHC recognized the larger political and environmental impacts of poverty and their connection to food insecurity. Based upon this world view, the Coalition focused on additional advocacy efforts, including issues such as: campaigning for general welfare reform and peace in Central America, supporting farm worker movements and boycotts, and registering their opposition to nuclear facilities and CalFresh/SNAP cuts. This underlying foundation guided much of the Coalition’s work including its commitment to advocacy, education and direct service.
In the early years of the new millennium, the SDHC turned its attention towards federal programs including CalFresh/SNAP and School Meals Programs.
The SDHC began providing training and support to community based organizations contracted to conduct CalFresh/SNAP outreach, build relationships with County staff, and open up dialog and feedback loops in order to identify barriers to federal benefits and improve access for low income people. Through these partnerships the Food Stamp Task Force (now called the CalFresh Task Force) was developed in 2005, when San Diego County utilization rates ranked among the worst in the nation at 26%. 2006 was momentous as it saw the SDHC hire its first paid staff member through a grant from MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger. Today the Task Force boasts more than 40 member organizations and has monthly meetings in each region of the county. San Diego’s CalFresh participation rate has increased to 64%, but this is still far below the 80-90% typical in other metropolitan areas of the U.S.
Today, SDHC continues to operate as a lean but high-powered organization with a staff of six, located in the City Heights area of San Diego. In 2015, SDHC hired a full time staff person to focus on school meals, and we have become the designated facilitator for the Summer Lunch Task Force, which is a working group of the County’s Community Nutrition Action Partnership (CNAP). We anticipate this program area growing in scale and impact similar to our CalFresh Outreach program, and we are also actively aligning outreach between the two program areas. Our legislative and systems change advocacy efforts are focused on CalFresh and School Meals, and how we can best interconnect federal food assistance programs with other community-based efforts to end hunger.