The Hunger Advocacy Network’s Annual Legislative Breakfast, facilitated by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, provides a forum for elected representatives to learn about food insecurity and the opportunities they have to address hunger in their roles as community leaders.Read More
San Diego Hunger Coalition Blog
Our Latest Updates on the Fight Against Hunger in San Diego County
SAN DIEGO, April 12, 2018 – The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as CalFresh locally, and formerly known as food stamps) that serves more than 260,000 residents of San Diego County is being targeted for devastating structural changes that will increase hunger and poverty in our region. The federal Farm Bill, which houses the SNAP program, is scheduled to be reauthorized this year. The House of Representative’s Agriculture Committee released their first draft of the Farm Bill yesterday which disregards evidenced-based policymaking in favor of unfounded and aggressive work requirements as well as other restrictions that will harm low-income people and families teetering on the edge of stability.
Proposed changes to SNAP in the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee’s version of the bill include creating harsher rules for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs), who like many others turn to CalFresh/SNAP when jobs are lost, hours are cut, or wages don't cover basic living expenses. The proposal would place an additional burden on states to develop new bureaucracies to develop and implement employment and training programs on an extremely limited budget of $300 per participant. The proposal also expands work requirements to CalFresh/SNAP beneficiaries between ages 18 and 59 who aren’t disabled or raising a child under age six.
Additionally, the House's version of the Farm Bill also proposes to eliminate what is known as "categorical eligibility" for the majority of CalFresh/SNAP households with gross incomes modestly above 130 percent of the federal poverty line, regardless of how high the household’s child care or housing costs may be and whether such costs leave them with disposable income below the poverty line. Categorical eligibility is currently used by 40 states, including California, to adjust income cutoffs and asset limits so that low-wage working families don't abruptly lose their CalFresh/SNAP benefits when they earn slightly more. Click here for an issue brief on CalFresh/SNAP's impact in San Diego County.
“The San Diego Hunger Coalition and Hunger Advocacy Network are deeply disappointed with the proposed changes to the SNAP program included in the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee’s draft of the Farm Bill. The current average CalFresh benefit per person is $4.10 per day. This amount already isn’t enough. These changes will be devastating to our region’s most vulnerable populations, many of whom are working hard but falling short due to low wages and San Diego County’s high cost of living. CalFresh/SNAP helps people cover the basic need of putting food on the table so they can get back on their feet more quickly,” said San Diego Hunger Coalition Executive Director Anahid Brakke.
To help raise awareness and show our representatives in Congress how much CalFresh/SNAP means to San Diego County, the San Diego Hunger Coalition and Hunger Advocacy Network are encouraging people to walk in the shoes of someone on CalFresh/SNAP by taking their 2018 #CalFreshChallenge from May 7 - 11. Register for the #CalFreshChallenge at SDhunger.org/CFC.
Each year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition encourages people who don’t have to worry about having enough food to try living on the average CalFresh benefit per person of $4.10 for one day on May 7th or $20.50 for all five days from May 7-11. The #CalFreshChallenge is a way to raise awareness about the benefit of the program, advocate for hunger relief policies with elected officials, and raise money for the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s CalFresh Task Force to help connect more eligible people in need to the program.
As we look back on the past year, we’re motivated by everything we and our more than 100 partners accomplished together to help our fellow San Diego residents access the food assistance resources.
Now, we’re sharing our favorite 2017 wins with you. Thanks to your support, we:
1. Saved Breakfast in the Classroom for at least one more year for more than 1,000 students in the Lemon Grove School District by providing advocacy training and support to our partners as well as parents and students.
2. Supported the City of Oceanside and Oceanside Unified School District to expand afterschool suppers and Summer Meals in the city thanks to a grant from the National League of Cities, Combating Hunger through Afterschool and Summer Meal Programs (CHAMPS) initiative.
3. Helped more than 215 households access food assistance by resolving over 230 technical issues with their CalFresh/SNAP applications.
4. Trained 369 staff, volunteers, and interns from hunger relief and human service agencies to provide CalFresh/SNAP application assistance.
5. Directed more than $326,000 to local nonprofits helping low-income individuals and families apply for CalFresh/SNAP, as a contractor for the state CalFresh Outreach Program.
6. Supported the passage of 4 State hunger relief policies that will help more eligible children and adults enroll in CalFresh and free and reduced-price school meals and broadens the tax credit for donated fresh fruits and vegetables.
The fight to end hunger continues in 2018. Our partners on the ground know how great the need for food assistance is, but the current administration has set its sights on dismantling and weakening CalFresh/SNAP by targeting the program for deep cuts disguised as “entitlement reform.” It will take all of us, raising our voices and telling our stories, to protect and strengthen these programs so that they remain available for the nearly 500,000 food insecure people in San Diego County.
Each year, the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN), facilitated by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, selects State hunger relief policies to prioritize for its lobbying efforts. This year, HAN was aided by a new wave of support from its grassroots Hunger Free Activist network. These everyday activists and partners receive periodic opportunities to use their voice, when it matters most, to support key pieces of legislation that will protect and expand programs like CalFresh/SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and School Meals. The Hunger Free Activists’ tweets, posts, calls, emails and letters over the past year worked! All of HAN’s state priority policies either passed or were included in the 2017-2018 state budget.
2017 State Priority Policy Initiatives
SB 138 (McGuire) - Feed the Kids: This law increases access to free and reduced-price school meals by implementing Medi-Cal Direct Certification statewide and calls upon very high poverty schools to offer free school meals to all students.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown - October 12, 2017
AB 1219 (Eggman) – Good Samaritan Food Donation Act: This law clarifies and expands existing liability protections for food donors to reduce waste and increases resources for San Diegans struggling with food insecurity.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown - October 9, 2017
AB 607 (Gloria) - Community Resiliency & Disaster Preparedness Act of 2017: This law protects against increased hunger and hardship of low-income families during a disaster by requiring the CalFresh program to maximize replacement benefit options during a disaster or power-outage and provide additional budget resources to be triggered in the case of a disaster declared by the Governor to improve the success of a federal request for disaster anti-hunger assistance and administration of the aid.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown - October 5, 2017
AB 214 (Weber) – College Hunger: This law addresses college student hunger by defining terms used in the CalFresh program to determine eligibility and clarifies the law concerning CalFresh Restaurant Meal Program on college campuses.
Signed by Governor Jerry Brown - July 24, 2017
AB 164 (Arambula) – California Leads to Meet Food Needs: This funding will establish a new state-funded anti-hunger CalFresh benefit to be issued under prescribed circumstances, such as drought, disaster, or in the case of federal SNAP ineligibility, and to be issued using the EBT system.
The 2017-2018 Budget includes one-time funding of $5 million for a CalFresh Unsafe Drinking Water Benefit Pilot program. This program will provide benefits to residents served by public water systems that fail to meet safe drinking water standards.
Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have passed versions of a FY 2018 Budget Resolution that expedites tax cuts for the wealthy, at the expense of programs that support low and middle-income people. This includes threats to cut SNAP (known as CalFresh in California). In the coming months, Congress will be writing the budget legislation that they will vote on. As details become available, we will be back in touch to ask you to contact members of Congress and ask them to protect important federal programs that provide food assistance to members of our community.
A family walks up to the cashier at the grocery store, takes out their wallet to purchase food, and doesn’t have enough to pay for the items on the checkout belt. How did they get here?
It is easy to conclude that this family made poor individual choices and decisions. Perhaps they didn’t budget their money wisely that month. Perhaps they haven’t put in the effort to find a higher-paying job. Perhaps they rely on CalFresh/SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and already used up all their monthly benefits.
The reality of food insecurity in San Diego – and across the nation – is far more complex than individual choice and isolated moments at the checkout line.
Living Wage Jobs
Unless a person sustains themselves entirely on food they grow themselves – something that has become increasingly rare in the United States – they need a source of income. Finding and securing a living wage job is not a simple feat. One needs training, education, work experience, and connections to gain employment.
In San Diego County, a staggeringly high cost of living and high competition for a limited number of living wage jobs intensifies the challenge. If a San Diegan does not have a basic adult education and lacks work experience, it may take anywhere from three to five to as many as ten years to overcome this barrier. While a person pursues career training or education, they must survive with a limited income. When faced with costs related to career and education, food often becomes a “flexible expense.” One group this often applies to is college students. In 2016, nearly 20% of University of California students reported experiencing very low food security. Facing the rising costs of books, supplies, and tuition, students may skip meals to pay for their education.
Cost of Food, Time, and Transportation
Food prices (and the relative prices of other necessary goods) impacts whether people experience food insecurity. In San Diego County, the average cost of a meal is $3.23, higher than the national average of $2.94. Further, to shop for and cook food at home requires time, food literacy, and cooking skills. This means that more afforable (and less healthy) prepared food is often the only viable option.
Lastly, a person may struggle to make it to the checkout line at all. For residents who live in a “food desert,” the nearest grocery store may be far enough away to necessitate a car ride. The cost of owning, maintaining, and fueling a car can add up. In car-dependent San Diego County, the weight of these costs is particularly heavy.
Federal food assistance programs act as vital safety nets for those experiencing financial hardship. However, these programs are not always available to those who need them. The Federal Poverty Level – the metric that determines eligibility for these programs – is an outdated measure that only captures extreme deprivation.
For example, to be eligible to receive CalFresh benefits, a person must have a household gross monthly income below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. The 2017 Federal Poverty Level threshold for a family of four is $24,600, so 200% of that level is $49,200. In San Diego County, however, a family of four may need as much as 300‐365% of the Federal Poverty Level (or $73,800 - $89,790) to meet their most basic needs, especially if their children are not yet in school and require childcare.
Further, the structure of federal food assistance is such that as a person gradually rises in income level, attaining more skills and training, they experience sharp cuts in benefits. This “benefits cliff” traps people between ineligible for benefits but not making enough to make ends meet. Lastly, many of those who are eligible for federal food assistance do not receive benefits because of complex eligibility guidelines, excessive paperwork, or lack of awareness.
Household and Individual Characteristics
Many factors outside of individual choice affect whether a person has enough food for an active, healthy life. A person's mental and physical health status may serve as a barrier to food access. This often includes veterans, the elderly, and those living with disabilities, among others. For example, in San Diego County, 49.1% of food insecure adults are disabled. Whether a person has a partner or spouse to supplement income can influence their ability to access food. For example, in San Diego County, 64.6% of low-income single parent households are food insecure.
Persistent Historical Inequality
Perhaps the most enduring root cause of food insecurity in the United States is racial, ethnic, and class-based inequities that span generations. Inequity has been deeply entrenched in policies and practices throughout our history. This inequity has created a divide in the accumulation of wealth (savings, home, or business equity) that historically advantages some populations, while disadvantaging others. Low-income people, people of color, women, single mothers, people with disabilities, etc. are more likely to experience food insecurity because of intergenerational inequality.
For example, over the past 30 years, the average wealth of white families has grown by 84% —1.2 times the rate of growth for the Latino/a population and 3 times the rate of growth for the African American population. This mirrors the reality of food insecurity in San Diego County, where food insecure adults are disproportionately Latino/a. 52.7% of food insecure adults are Latino/a, versus 26.3% that are White.
The Reality of Food Insecurity
In sum, food insecurity is the result of a complex relationship between the ability to acquire and maintain a living wage job, the cost of food, time, and transportation, food assistance policies, and enduring historical inequalities. When we see food insecurity with this lens – not a result of poor individual choices, but a result of a complex array of environmental, social, and historical factors – we are better able to make strides in ensuring that all San Diegans have enough food.
- Authored by Rosa Rada, 2017 Emerson Hunger Fellow
Members of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN) led by our Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson descended on the state capitol on May 17 to support anti-hunger policies that impact families struggling to put food on the table in San Diego County. Joining Diane was Ashley Harrington, Manager of Public Affairs and Young Adult Initiatives at Jewish Family Service of San Diego, Kelcey Ellis, Director of Programs at Feeding San Diego, Gabriela Arias, Resident Services Coordinator at Housing on Merit, and Nina Ghatan, Coordinator of the San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative at Community Health Improvement Partners. They shared their expertise with San Diego's representatives to demonstrate our region's problem with food insecurity and the positive impact anti-hunger legislation would have on hundreds of thousands of low-income San Diegans.
This year, HAN offered an innovative way for constituents who couldn’t travel to Sacramento to use their online voice to support statewide anti-hunger policies. HAN's Digital Lobby Day was the initial advocacy effort of the group’s Hunger Free Activist grassroots network. Leading up to Digital Lobby Day, Activists were sent information on how to contact their representative on social media as well as templates and memes to help create posts and tweets in support of HAN's priority state policies. The online support generated during Digital Lobby Day helped amplify and strengthen the presence of San Diego’s anti-hunger community.
While in Sacramento, HAN members met with Assemblymember Rocky Chavez and with the staffs of Senator Toni Atkins, Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher, Senator Ben Hueso, Assemblymember Brian Maienschein, Assemblymember Marie Waldron, and Assemblymember Shirley Weber. HAN’s discussions with representatives focused on the San Diego Hunger Coalition's latest food insecurity data and gaining support for the Network’s 2017 state priority policy initiatives:
- SB 138 (McGuire) - Feed the Kids: This legislation would automatically enroll low-income children on Medi-Cal in free school meals and calls upon very high poverty schools to offer free school meals to all students.
- AB 214 (Weber) – College Hunger: This legislation would address college student hunger by defining terms used in the CalFresh program to determine eligibility and clarifying the law concerning CalFresh Restaurant Meal Program on college campuses.
- AB 1219 (Eggman) – Good Samaritan Food Donation Act: This legislation clarifies and expands existing liability protections for organizations that provide, receive and distribute donated food to reduce waste and increase resources to feed more struggling San Diegans.
- AB 164 (Arambula) – California Leads to Meet Food Needs: This legislation would establish a new state funded anti-hunger CalFresh benefit to be issued using the EBT system during disasters such as drought and in the case of federal SNAP ineligibility.
- AB 607 (Gloria) - Community Resiliency & Disaster Preparedness Act of 2017: This legislation would protect against increased hunger and hardship among low-income families by requiring the CalFresh program to maximize replacement benefit options during a disaster or power-outage and provide additional budget in the case of a disaster declared by the Governor to improve the success of a federal request for disaster anti-hunger aid.
The following week on May 24, Diane was back in Sacramento representing HAN alongside more than 200 anti-hunger advocates from cities and communities across California as part of Hunger Action Day. This time she met with the staffs of Senator Joel Anderson and Assemblyman Randy Voepel.
As the food security safety net continues to come under threat at the federal level, it is more important than ever to strengthen our state’s support for policies and programs that help San Diegans have enough food for a healthy active life. Learn more and sign up to be a Hunger Free Activist here. By doing so you'll receive periodic opportunities to use your voice to advocate for anti-hunger legislation so you can tailor your level of engagement.
As the end of the 2017 school year approached, the Lemon Grove School District was evaluating whether to keep serving Breakfast in the Classroom or move back to the traditional model of serving it before the start of the school day. Our partner Community Health Improvement Partners (CHIP) reached out to us to help engage and train members of the community to advocate for keeping Breakfast in the Classroom as part of their community collaborative with Kaiser, the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone.
So why is protecting breakfast in the classroom important? In San Diego County, one in four children arrive to school without having started their day ready to learn supported by a nutritious meal. By serving breakfast in the classroom students can start their day enjoying a meal with their peers in an educational setting and their parents save time during their morning commutes by not having to drop off their children early before the first bell. Studies show that well-nourished children are better prepared for their academic success, are less tardy, visit the nurse’s office less, and cause fewer disruptions in the classroom.
Our School Meals Program Director Robin McNulty and Director of Policy and Advocacy Diane Wilkinson engaged with parents, students and community health partners and trained them to advocate for keeping breakfast in the classroom. They supplied these supporters with talking points and information on the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom. They also helped them prepare to make public testimonies to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board and practiced ways to best convey their commitment to their children.
On May 9th, our training paid-off and parents, students and community health advocates came to the Lemon Grove School District Governance Board Meeting to support Breakfast in the Classroom. Together we were successful in gaining the Governance Board’s approval to keep Breakfast in the Classroom for one more year!
Moving forward we will continue to work with CHIP and the Lemon Grove HEAL Zone to keep breakfast in the classroom. Our recommendations include working together with the teachers and the food service director in the school district who opposed the program to address their concerns and develop strategies to overcome barriers. Some ways this could be done is by convening a school breakfast task force to evaluate the long-term sustainability of Breakfast in the Classroom, identifying Board policy changes, and re-training teachers and students on how to document participation in the program. Additionally, identifying breakfast items students prefer and better District promotion of the benefits of Breakfast in the Classroom will help support this valuable program and feed more children in need.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition has released its 2015 San Diego County Food Insecurity Analysis, which estimates more than half a million people (almost 1 in 6) don’t always have enough food for an active and healthy life. Of these people, nearly 162,000 are children, which is a shocking 1 in 5.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition’s food insecurity analysis is based on 2014 and 2015 data from the California Health Interview Survey (CHIS). The survey is conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles’ Center for Health Policy Research, and food security is evaluated for households below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level. San Diego Hunger Coalition’s analysis represents the most current and accurate understanding of food insecurity rates in San Diego County.
While common myths associated with people who rely on federal food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known as CalFresh in California, suggest that many benefitting from these programs do not work, the Hunger Coalition’s analysis found that more than half (56.1%) of food insecure adults have a job, and nearly half (49.1%) are living with a disability. Other key findings were that approximately 40 percent of low-income adults and nearly half of low-income children are living in a food insecure household. The complete 2015 San Diego County Food Insecurity Data is available online here.
Additionally, for the first-time San Diego’s anti-hunger community is also examining the population that responded to the CHIS survey as “food secure” but receiving CalFresh benefits. The Hunger Coalition estimates that more than 143,000 people (67,208 are children) who are below 200% of the poverty line are at risk of becoming food insecure if they lose their CalFresh/SNAP benefits. This could become a reality under President Trump’s recently released 2018 budget proposal which calls for $193 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next decade —25 percent of the federal program’s budget.
By regularly assessing our region's food insecurity landscape, San Diego County's anti-hunger community can identify data driven solutions to help connect our most vulnerable populations to the nutrition they need to thrive and be independent. Additionally, this data will be used to advocate for state and federal anti-hunger policies that help families in need put food on their tables.
We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series dispels misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.
What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.
May was CalFresh Awareness Month so we dedicated each Monday to busting a myth related to CalFresh (also known as SNAP or Food Stamps) and the different people who depend on this program to get ahead in a time of need.
The first Monday of the month we take a look back at the myths busted the previous month. Check out the myths we busted in April 2017 here.
From May 8-12 we held our annual #CalFreshChallenge. Each year we challenge people who don't have to worry about having enough food to live on the average daily CalFresh/SNAP benefit per person in San Diego County which is now $4.18/day. We dedicated our social media posts this week to sharing about the #CalFreshChallenge and the valuable new appreciation gained from this lived experience. Click to see what people had to say about the #CalFreshChallenge on Facebook and Twitter.
#MythbusterMonday "Homeless people aren't eligible for CalFresh/SNAP benefits because they don't have a permanent address." False! "You can qualify for benefits if you don't have an address or if you live at a shelter." Click here and see #1 to learn more.
#MythbusterMonday "There is no hunger in the military." False! According to MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger every Marine and Naval base in the county (and possibly the Army and Air Force too) allow charities to host regular food distributions on base to help struggling active duty military families. Click here and see #5 to learn more, then sign our petition to tell Congress hunger among military families is unacceptable!
#MythbusterMonday "Being hungry is just part of the post-adolescent college experience." False! Hunger on campus is a real problem. According to Feeding America 1 in 10 of the adults they serve are students. CalFresh can help. Click here to learn more.
Each year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition challenges people who don't have to worry about food to live off of the average CalFresh (also known as SNAP or food stamps) benefit per person in San Diego County. The 2017 #CalFreshChallenge took place May 8-12 and participants lived on a food budget of $4.18 for one day or $20.92 for five days. This year, many of the Hunger Coalition's anti-hunger partners that work to enroll eligible people in need in the CalFresh program took part in the Challenge. Cassandra Reese, a CIRS Enrollment Specialist at 2-1-1 San Diego shares her #CalFreshChallenge experience below. 2-1-1 San Diego serves as a nexus to bring the community (organizations) together to help people efficiently access appropriate services, and provide vital data and trend information for proactive community planning.
- Eggs (18) - $3
- Dry Beans 1 lb $ 1.75
- Cheese 1 lb $4
- Sour cream $1.98
- Cottage Cheese $2.98
- Peach cups $1.88
- Drink packs (10) $1.00
- Margarine $1.00
- Ritz crackers $1.98
My Plan is to alternate between eggs and cottage cheese with fruit cups for breakfast. The Ritz came with four packs so this is my snack for the entire of week
I had planned to have backed potatoes with sour cream for dinner, but that won’t happen unless I can find a bag of potatoes for under $2 because that’s all I have left in the budget.
The red beans will be lunch for the week. I was going to put it in tortilla for bean and cheese burritos. So I’ll either chose between the potatoes or tortillas with the remaining budget.
Day 1 Upbeat & ready to go
- Breakfast - 3 hard boiled eggs
- Lunch - red beans w/ cheese slices
- Snack - Ritz crackers
- Dinner - will also be red beans
- Drink - 1 peach tea packet w/ water
Day 2 The hardest day
I was soooooooooo hungry!!! I didn’t plan my meals or snacks well enough to prevent or get through the hunger. I was so hungry that I ate through over half of the snack (crackers) that I had bought to last the entire week. It made me wonder if families in need also run into this dilemma and use up most of their CalFresh benefits or the food they bought for the month in the first few days/weeks and then struggle to have enough food to sustain them through the rest of the month.
After I shared with my coworkers my day one experience, including my grocery list and my remaining budget, a couple of them suggested that I go to the 99 Cent Only store. Since, I only had $2.10 left in my overall budget I decided to go to see what they had available.
To my surprise the 99 Cent Only store not only had everything I had bought Day 1 at Walmart, but also for more than half the price. If I had only gone to this store first I would’ve been able to get DOUBLE the food and snacks to last me throughout the week. I would have also been able to get fruits, veggies, and more. So with my remaining $2 I bought tortillas and an extra snack to last me the rest of the week.
Day 3 The Day of Temptations
Still hungry but not constant cravings like Day 2. Today’s challenge was temptations throughout the day. The first hour of work I was offered donuts and coffee. Then on my way to my break I was offered candy. At lunch, in the break room there were free sandwiches and the most beautiful looking spinach, cranberry, feta cheese salad with balsamic dressing. My resolved almost faltered after seeing the salad. Later, a coworker decided to sit a bag of chips on my desk when I went to the printer. When I came back I took the bag of chips back to their desk.
After work, when I went to pick up my daughter my mom gave me a tray of pastries to take to my daughter's class the next day for teacher appreciation day.
TEMPTATIONS, TEMPTATIONS, AND MORE TEMPTATIONS
While preparing dinner I was presented with another moment of understanding. I started to make my dinner when I saw that I was running very low on all the food I’d bought. So I started to worry and ration the portions of how much I could eat and still have enough left for the last two days.
Day 4 Almost there
The home stretch is here and still hungry but not as much.
Day 5 FINISH LINE
I MADE IT……HOORAY!!!!!.........BUT still hungry!
I am happy and yet disheartened all at the same time. Happy because I was successful at completing the challenge and my awareness of hunger is more prevalent than it has ever been. But disheartened because I know families on CalFresh don’t have the ability or option to go back to spending whatever they chose on meals and their struggle to provide food for their families is ongoing. The poverty and working poor gap is widening everyday while benefits are diminishing. Under the current administration, the state of these much needed benefits are hanging in the balance. I wish the San Diego Hunger Coalition much success and support in your daily efforts to bring about hunger awareness and funding for your MISSION TO END HUNGER.
We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series overturns misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.
What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.
In April we busted the following hunger myths:
#MythbusterMonday “SNAP investments have no long-term payoffs.” False! Access to the Food Stamp Program at early ages—starting before birth in cases where the mother received food stamps during pregnancy, and continuing through age five—leads to many positive long-run health and economic outcomes. See fact #8 here.
#MythbusterMonday “People on SNAP sell their EBT cards for cash.” False! EBT cards were designed to prevent this. “With EBT, you can’t just sell the card -- you’d also have to give the buyer your PIN number. And you’d have to trust they were going to bring the card back to you” says economist Craig Gundersen who has researched food stamps for 20 + years. Click on the here to learn more.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition is proud to partner with the March for Science taking place nationwide and here in San Diego on April 22. We rely on science every day in our work to end hunger in our San Diego County through research and evidence-based programs and policy. Our region is home to nearly 500,000 people who are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough to eat for an active, healthy life. Of these people, nearly 1/3 are children. Without science, we would not know which populations need food assistance, and what are the most effective ways to reach them.
Ways we use science to fight hunger
- We use data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey to learn about poverty and federal nutrition program eligibility in San Diego County. Finding out how conditions are changing in our communities helps us to plan and advocate for the needs of people struggling to put food on the table.
- We partnered with the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Health Policy Research to analyze their 2014 and 2015 California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) data to develop the most current and accurate food insecurity rates for San Diego County. In doing so, we can provide an in-depth look at the landscape of hunger and hunger relief services to better understand the types of food assistance available, current gaps and underutilized funding opportunities.
- We worked to integrate food insecurity screenings into healthcare settings in San Diego County by coordinating Rx for CalFresh pilots across six unique healthcare settings and developing a food security and healthcare curriculum in partnership with UC San Diego School of Medicine. Today, healthcare professionals are better equipped to screen for food insecurity and connect people to CalFresh (California’s version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as “food stamps”), one of our nation’s most effective anti-hunger programs.
- We use data and research provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to better understand food insecurity throughout the nation and the impacts of federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC.
- We incorporate data in our advocacy work and meetings with policymakers at the state and federal levels to protect government assistance programs like CalFresh and School Meals. In 2016, our Hunger Advocacy Network secured success for key bills and budget asks to ensure that all people in San Diego have access to enough food for an active, healthy life.
- We use data from the California Department of Education to estimate participation rates in school meal programs at every school district in San Diego County. This lets us identify what’s working and innovative opportunities to feed more children like breakfast in the classroom.
- We analyze data from the CalFresh program to find opportunities to support our CalFresh Task Force’s work to increase efficiency and effectiveness so all eligible people in need can enroll in the program.
- We share data and learnings with our partners so they can more effectively fulfill their own missions and serve as many hungry people as possible.
We use science to measure our impact and identify places to course correct when needed. It allows our work to be efficient, grounded, fundable, and ultimately truly effective. Join us in supporting science on April 22 and register for the San Diego #MarchforScience here. Registering allows the march organizers to update the march logistics and programming as well as keep track of overall attendance and collect basic, useful information on who is attending so they can tell the story about this march when it is over.
Join the March for Science San Diego's Facebook event page to get the latest information and resources leading up to and after the march.
Unable to attend the #MarchonScience? Donate to support the costs for day-of-logistics, technology, outreach and operations for the march.
To directly support the San Diego Hunger Coalition's work to end hunger in San Diego County donate here.
Our analysis indicates that nearly 500,000 people in San Diego County do not have enough food for a healthy, active life. Our annual CalFresh Challenge helps raise awareness and money to end hunger in our community. For one day or up to 5 days, we encourage people who don’t have to worry about not having enough food to try living on a food stamps budget. In San Diego County, the average CalFresh budget for one person is $4.18 per day or $20.92 for 5 days.
How to participate:
1. Register for the Challenge
Let us know you’re participating by registering, even for the 1-day challenge! The more people who sign up, the more attention this cause will receive. Participants can take the CalFresh Challenge for 1 day or 5 days between Monday, May 8 and Friday, May 12. After registering, participants will be sent the challenge guidelines and tips for meal planning on an extremely limited budget. Register here.
2. Stick to the budget and share your experience
During the CalFresh Challenge, your entire grocery budget will be $4.18 for 1 day or $20.92 for 5 days including all meals, beverages and snacks. This is the average food stamps benefit per person in San Diego County. Participants are encouraged to share their experience on social media using #CalFreshChallenge. Review the Challenge guidelines.
3. Fundraise and win prizes
Make an even greater impact in the fight against hunger by raising money between May 1-15 to support the work of our CalFresh Task Force to make sure all eligible people in need are able to enroll in the program. This year, participants who raise $100 or more will receive a free San Diego Hunger Coalition tote bag – a small token of our appreciation for your support. Top fundraisers will receive prize packs of gifts from our generous community partners. Create your fundraising page.
4. Celebrate Your Accomplishment and Support a Good Cause!
Come mingle with staff, partners and friends of the San Diego Hunger Coalition and celebrate this year's CalFresh Challenge participants and top fundraisers at Benchmark Brewing Company (6190 Fairmount Ave. Suite G.) on Thursday, May 25th from 5:30-7:30 pm. In support of CalFresh Awareness Month, Benchmark Brewing Company is selling 16 oz. pours of their Table Beer for $4.18 every Sunday in May! The Table Beer will also be available at this special price during the happy hour on May 25th.
Happy Hour at Benchmark Brewing Company
Thursday, May 25
5:30 - 7:30 pm
6190 Fairmount Ave. Suite G.
San Diego, CA 92120
You can read about last year’s challenge and hear from participants about living on an extremely low food budget on our CalFresh Challenge blog.
Members of our team traveled to our nation’s capital to support and protect CalFresh and School Meals in San Diego County at the federal level as part of the 2017 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference held from March 5-7. Our Director of Policy & Advocacy Diane Wilkinson led members of the Hunger Advocacy Network (HAN) including Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank, along with our CalFresh team of Amanda Schultz Brochu and Marcia Garcia, in representing the San Diego region. The Hunger Coalition attends national conferences to connect with others in the field, learn innovative new approaches to their work, and best practices from other communities.
The annual conference provides opportunities for anti-hunger advocates across the nation to network with each other, build relationships with members of Congress, and attend informational sessions on topics ranging from using data to support storytelling to Breakfast-After-The-Bell Programs to immigration and public benefits to the effects of the economy and policy on food insecurity. On the conference’s Lobby Day, Diane and members of HAN met with San Diego’s members of Congress to discuss protecting nutrition and food assistance at the federal level to better serve our local work to end hunger. They met with Representative Scott Peters and his staff, as well as the staffs of Senator Kamala Harris, Senator Dianne Feinstein and Representatives Juan Vargas, Darrell Issa, and Susan Davis.
This year’s conference addressed the uncertain future of government assistance programs under a new administration. A major discussion point was the danger of block granting food assistance programs. Block grants would provide set funding amounts for these vital programs which can be detrimental in cases when there is an economic downturn or a natural disaster as this form of funding is prohibited from adjusting to cope with changing circumstances. Additional topics addressed were the need to protect the entire safety net (not just access to food), the importance of school meals in the future success of students, and how to work across the aisle to preserve programs that keep Americans fed.
You can view some of our team’s favorite moments and other conference attendee experiences at this year’s National Ant-Hunger Policy Conference by searching the hashtag #hungerpc17 on social media.
Military families face unique barriers to food assistance. They receive a basic allowance for housing which is determined by where they are stationed, among other factors. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the agency that administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (the modern version of food stamps known as CalFresh in California) and sets eligibility requirements considers this allowance part of their income. The IRS and several federal assistance programs do not consider military housing allowances as income. This red tape and confusion around what consists as income leaves tens of thousands of San Diego’s military families struggling to put food on the table because they are not eligible for CalFresh.
Last month Representative Susan Davis (D-San Diego) re-introduced the Military Hunger Prevent Act (H.R.1048) to Congress to make accessing food assistance easier for service members and their families. This bill would prevent military housing allowances from being used to determine eligibility for SNAP. Rep. Davis was joined by Representatives Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Don Young (R-AK), and Tim Walz (D-MN) as cosponsors of the legislation.
A senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Davis stated in a press release, “Those who make great personal sacrifices in service to our country should not have to struggle to provide regular, nutritious meals for their families. Unfortunately, an unintended policy barrier prevents military families struggling with food insecurity from getting help from available federal nutrition assistance programs. This is a simple, common sense solution to ensuring that we properly care for our men and women in uniform and their families.”
According to Feeding America’s 2014 Hunger in America report, one in five of the households served by their networks has at least one member that has ever served in the military. Making it easier for military members to access CalFresh provides a reliable source for nutritious food and a greater sense of dignity by allowing enrolled families to shop for food at grocery stories instead of standing in line at emergency food service providers such as food banks or charity pantries on or near their military base.
The San Diego Hunger Coalition endorses the Military Prevention Act and the Hunger Advocacy Network will be tracking this bill this year. We’ll keep you updated on its progress. You can do your part to remove this barrier to food assistance for military families by making your voice heard. Sign our petition to tell Congress military families facing hunger is unacceptable! Sign the petition here.
We begin each week using our online voice to debunk myths about hunger. Our #MythbusterMonday social media series overturns misinformation and stigma commonly associated with food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP and school meals and the people who rely on them to help put food on the table.
What hunger myths have you heard? Join us in sharing the truth about hunger each Monday using #MythbusterMonday.
In March we busted the following hunger myths:
#MythbusterMonday "No one can be hungry AND overweight.” False! People living in poverty can’t afford enough food and what they can afford – or what is available in their community – is often unhealthy and processed. See #4.
#MythbusterMonday "People don’t have enough food because they’re not working.” False! In San Diego County 53% of food insecure adults are employed, with nearly 43% working full-time (defined as 21+ hours/week) Learn more.
#MythbusterMonday "People receiving emergency food assistance need help because they have too many kids.” False! Most families seeking food assistance consist of 2-3 people, a mom and 1-2 of her kids. Only 3% of households on food assistance have more than 6 members. See #3.
#MythbusterMonday “Federal child nutrition programs & CalFresh drain the system.” False! Youth who have access to food assistance in early childhood have better health outcomes as adults and are more likely be successful in school and employment.
Our CalFresh Alumni project champions successful Americans who once received CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) but who are now independent, contributing members of our community, as well as individuals who currently rely on the program during a time of need. With a temporary lift from this government program that continues to help feed millions of Americans every day, these people are persevering and accomplishing great things. They make San Diego stronger every day. Read their stories; tell us yours.
Meet Tekara Gainey. Tekara works in community engagement and public affairs for a San Diego nonprofit organization. Tekara shares her experience as a CalFresh/SNAP recipient and how it supported her journey to become the successful, independent woman she is today.
At what point in your life did you receive CalFresh/SNAP (food stamps) and why?
I’ve received SNAP at various junctures throughout my life. My earliest memory of SNAP is as a young kid growing up in a single-family household. I later relied on SNAP when I was putting myself through college, both in pursuit of my Bachelors as well as my Masters degrees.
How long were you on CalFresh/SNAP?
In total, I was on CalFresh/SNAP for 7 years.
How did CalFresh/SNAP help you in your time of need?
My mother was working full time and we relied on SNAP to help put food on our table. This was back when SNAP was issued as vouchers. I remember going to the corner store and using our vouchers to purchase basic food items like milk, eggs, and bread. As a student, SNAP helped to alleviate some of the burden associated with working, attending school and paying bills.
How did receiving food assistance make you feel?
Relieved. I was already under an immense amount of stress working and going to school full time, barely able to afford rent, transportation, books, phone bill…the list goes on. Knowing that my capability of putting good, healthy food on the table was not compromised offered a lot of relief. I didn’t have to choose between eating lunch or eating dinner. I could do both. It was one less thing, on a list of many things, I had to worry about.
What are some common misconceptions you have heard people use about CalFresh/SNAP?
I've heard many people claim CalFresh/SNAP is only available to families (adults with young children), persons who are unemployed or homeless individuals. I’ve also heard people say CalFresh/SNAP couldn’t or shouldn’t be used at well-known grocery stores such as Trader Joes or Whole Foods. When speaking about people receiving CalFresh/SNAP, I’ve heard people claim recipients are abusing the system, lack the drive and will to get off SNAP, and are underserving of nice things (i.e., bags, shoes, clothes, etc.). An acquaintance once told me she was surprised to learn I was receiving SNAP benefits because I seemed so “put together”. I guess I wasn’t supposed to comb my hair that day!
What are you most proud of in your life? Or what are your dreams for the future?
I am proud of the life I’ve created for myself. I live in a beautiful city, have a wonderful, supportive, and strong groups of friends and family, and I am doing work that I am passionate about and that is making an impact.
What do you want people to know about food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP?
Food assistance programs like CalFresh/SNAP give people control over their lives and choices. During my time of need, prior to receiving food assistance, my choices were often made for me, based on my circumstances. Deciding whether I should spend $50 to purchase a work uniform or put aside money for lunch for the week was a no-brainer. If I wanted a job, I needed the uniform. Going 8-10 hours without eating because I couldn’t afford breakfast AND lunch was not my choice, but rather my circumstance. CalFresh/SNAP made me the ultimate decision maker again, just as it does with others.
Our CalFresh Alumni Project features individuals who have used CalFresh in the past or are currently enrolled in the program and using it as temporary assistance to get ahead during a time of need. CalFresh is California's version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and is our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. By telling the stories of those who have benefited from SNAP/CalFresh, we can more effectively raise awareness and advocate to maintain this vital program.
If you would like to take part in our CalFresh Alumni Project and share your experience with CalFresh/SNAP, contact Liz Faris at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-501-7917 ext. 106. Your story will be shared on our blog, in our newsletter, on our social media sites, and in communications with elected officials who have the power to preserve this important program. If you prefer, you may remain anonymous. Your story will still have a big impact!
Many of us have overcome barriers to get to where we are today, and this may have included not having enough food in the house. If you or your family ever received food stamps/SNAP (known as CalFresh in California), the San Diego Hunger Coalition wants to share your story to help make sure this vital program remains available for others during their times of need. The San Diego Hunger Coalition is a nonprofit that brings organizations across San Diego County together in the fight against hunger. We lead coordinated action supported by research, education and advocacy.
Former SNAP/CalFresh recipients include representatives in Congress, famous celebrities, professional athletes, CEO’s and community leaders at all levels. By telling the stories of those who have benefited from SNAP/CalFresh, we can more effectively raise awareness and advocate for important policies to end hunger.
SNAP is our nation’s most effective anti-hunger program. Locally, the majority of people receiving CalFresh get the temporary help they need and are on it for less than two years. An important part of the Hunger Coalition’s work includes reducing the myths and stigma around SNAP/CalFresh. These misconceptions affect policy, funding, how food assistance programs are administered, and whether people feel comfortable seeking the resources they need to help their families.
We make it easy for you to help change this by sharing your story as part of our CalFresh Alumni project. We will send you a few interview questions you can respond to by email, over the phone or in person. We then write a brief blog post about your experience that will be shared on our website, newsletter, social media, and in communication with elected officials who have the power to preserve this important program. If you prefer, you can remain anonymous. Your story will still have a big impact!
If you are interested in sharing a little bit about how food stamps provided a bridge to where you are today, please contact the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s Communications Officer Liz Faris directly at email@example.com or (619) 501-7917 ext. 106.
In 2016, the Hunger Advocacy Network channeled expertise and support from member organizations to support important State legislation. From direct lobbying to education, we helped secure success for key bills and budget asks to ensure that all people in San Diego have access to enough food for an active, healthy life. With advocacy, we can influence public policies, programs and funding to help more people access the food they need. After reading about last year’s successes, we hope you’ll sign up to become an Advocate for a Hunger Free San Diego.
Together, we leveraged our collective voices to achieve the following success for our community:
- Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit – This initiative will extend and increase incentives to allow for donations of fresh produce to food banks throughout the state.
- Food Assistance for Higher Education – Establishes the Public Higher Education Pantry Assistance Program for supporting an on-campus food pantry and hunger relief efforts for low-income students.
- Breakfast After the Bell - $2 million in funding to expand access and participation in the school breakfast program.
- Nutrition Incentives Funding - $5 million in State funding - that will be matched by Federal funding - to strengthen the Market Match program that makes fresh fruit and vegetables more affordable for low-income families.
With advocacy, we can influence public policies, programs and funding to help more people access the food they need. While we celebrate the important successes of 2016, we must proactively expanding our reach and partnerships to protect the gains we’ve made.
As part of September’s Hunger Action Month, Hunger Advocacy Network member organizations across San Diego County collected stories from clients, volunteers, and community leaders about how hunger affects them and their communities. These people wrote their stories on paper plates to share with elected officials and the public how hunger impacts those in our community every day. These efforts are especially important as the California legislature makes its final decisions on legislation that would have a positive impact in reducing food insecurity.
Every year, the partner organizations of the Hunger Advocacy Network consider all the legislation proposed by the California Assembly and the Senate. We focus our advocacy efforts on initiatives that will make a lasting impact on reducing food insecurity in San Diego County.
Along with our statewide partners, including MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, California Food Policy Associates, California Association of Food Banks, and the Western Center on Law and Poverty, the Hunger Advocacy Network continues to leverage the combined expertise of our 21 member organizations to advocate for policies in Sacramento that address the needs of San Diegans that go hungry. With the State legislative cycle drawing to a close, we have a lot of success to be proud of and plenty of momentum to continue our efforts.
Six Legislative Changes that will Reduce Local Hunger
The Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit (AB 1577): This credit helps reduce waste by encouraging farmers to donate excess fruits and vegetables to food banks to feed families throughout the county. Every dollar in credit leverages approximately 10 – 20 pounds of donated food. Along with our statewide partners, we were able to increase the credit to 15% and extend the program through 2022. Approximately 80% of the produce distributed by Feeding San Diego and San Diego Food Bank is the result of this important tax credit.
YES - This program was included in the State budget agreement that was signed by Governor Brown.
Food Assistance for Higher Education Students (AB 1747): As the cost for college rises, fewer working class families have the resources to support their children in securing a degree and there are increasing incidences of student hunger and homelessness. Proposed by local Assembly Member Shirley Weber, this legislation offers meaningful steps in supporting students struggling with food insecurity by establishing the Public Higher Education Pantry Assistance Program for supporting on-campus food pantries and hunger relief efforts for low-income students.
YES - Governor Brown signed this important legislation on September 12, 2016.
Market Match Nutrition Incentive Funding: The California Market Match program was launched in 2009 to encourage low-income families receiving nutrition benefits to purchase fresh, locally-grown fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets. This program doubles the purchasing power of nutrition benefits, such as CalFresh and WIC when used to buy California grown fruits, nuts and vegetables at farmers’ markets. The California budget agreement that was approved by Governor Brown, includes an investment of $5 million dollars in this important program. This will allow the state to leverage $5 million in Federal matching funds resulting in at least $10 million for the expansion of local nutrition incentive programs.
YES - This funding was included in the California budget agreement approved by Governor Brown.
Streamlining CalFresh Eligibility (SB 1232): Low wage workers face significant barriers to participation in the CalFresh Program. Few have paid time off or reliable transportation to get to the county welfare department for the application process. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2012 reporting, only 53 percent of eligible working families in California receive this federally funded food benefit. This legislation would ease the burden on families by requiring state and county agencies that administer the CalFresh Program to use existing employment and income verification databases to simplify the eligibility process for CalFresh applicants.
YES - Governor Brown approved this legislation on September 12, 2016.
Ensuring School Breakfast for Children: One in four kids in San Diego County arrive to school without breakfast. Numerous studies have shown that eating breakfast can bolster academic achievement, reduce absenteeism and tardiness, and improve classroom behavior. Breakfast After the Bell programs bring breakfast into the classroom, ensuring all children have the nutrition they need to succeed. Our own Robin McNulty provided critical testimony on the effectiveness of this program to the State Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance.
YES - Governor Brown approved $2 million in funding in the State budget for public schools that want to startup or expand after-the-bell breakfast programs.
Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) for the State Supplementary Program for the Aged, Blind and Disabled (SSP) (AB 1584): The state supplementary program awards monthly grants to help prevent seniors and other disabled adults from living in poverty. This benefit provides income support to individuals who are aged 65 or older, blind or disabled. Starting in 2008, cuts made by the Legislature and the Governor reduced grants to individuals to amounts well below the federal poverty level. This bill would be an incremental step in lifting over 1 million California seniors and disabled adults out of poverty by re-establishing the automatic cost-of-living adjustment as a permanent component of SSI/SSP.
NO - Unfortunately, Governor Brown vetoed this full effort on September 25, 2016. However, along with advocates across the state we were successful in securing a small one-time increase to the SSI/SSP program in the State Budget Agreement.
Thanks to the efforts of advocates like you, we’ve been able to help inform our policy makers and generate real systemic change for San Diegans facing hunger. However, there is still more work to be done. Please join us in our efforts to ensure that all San Diegans have access to food at all times for a healthy future.
If you are interested in more information on how you can make a difference as an advocate, please contact Diane Wilkinson at the San Diego Hunger Coalition at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 619-501-7917.