Speaking Up for Hunger Relief in Sacramento

 

An important part of ending hunger here in San Diego County is advocating for better hunger policies statewide. San Diego Hunger Coalition and members of the Hunger Advocacy Network travelled to Sacramento in May to talk with state legislators about important pieces of state legislation to help reduce hunger in San Diego County. Read on to learn about the policies we’re fighting for (or have already won!) and how they could help to ensure that no one in San Diego County goes to bed hungry.

AB 2054 - Nutrition assistance: Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) for Children

What Does It Do?

AB 2054, co-authored by Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), will prepare California to implement Summer EBT for Children (SEBTC). When it is approved at the federal level, this program will provide low-income families with a grocery supplement during the summer months for children enrolled in the Free & Reduced Price Meal Program. A small amount of funds are issued to EBT cards each month to supplement a household’s food budget. EBT cards function like debit cards, but can only be used to buy limited types of food and grocery items.

Why is it important?

Many low-income children who rely on school breakfasts, lunches, and after-school snacks during the school year go hungry during the summer months, when school is out of session. Hunger is especially detrimental for children, and bouts of hunger during summer vacation can impair development and hinder learning and academic performance during the school year. 

The San Diego Hunger Coalition’s 2014 report, Help Them Eat at Home, found that Summer EBT cards for children are one of the most effective and cost-efficient solutions for ending summer hunger. The study also informed a federal bill, the Stop Child Summer Hunger ACT.

Status

We’re excited to report that the bill passed unanimously (80-0) in the State Assembly, and now travels to the Senate. This bill has a lot of momentum but passing is never a guarantee. Your voice makes a difference. Here’s how you can help ensure the bill passes and children across the state don’t go hungry on summer vacation. 

AB 1747 – Food Assistance for Higher Education Students

What Does It Do?

AB 1747, authored by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), will address growing incidences of hunger among low-income college students in California by giving the state several new tools to and improve coordination between college campus anti-hunger efforts and those in their communities. 

Why is it important?

Opportunities for low-income youth to escape poverty and climb into the middle class have narrowed over the past two decades. A college degree is an important tool in climbing the economic ladder; however, there have been increasing reports of college students who are limited in their opportunities to thrive in college by hardships like homelessness and hunger. This bill will support low-income college students by reducing hardships and barriers to graduation.  

Status

We’re excited to report that the bill passed the State Assembly and is now before the Senate. 

AB 1577 - CalFood Program: CalFood Account

What does it do?

Also known as the Farm to Food Bank Tax Credit, AB 1577 would offer most California farmers a 15 percent tax credit for the wholesale value of foods donated to food banks. AB 1577 is an improvement and extension of the existing tax credit program.

Why is it important?

This bill increases access to healthy foods for low-income Californians. To obtain donated food, food banks must compete with other ways that growers dispose of excess crops – including food going to waste – and a tax credit helps tip the balance for growers to contribute to food banks. Most of the produce distributed by San Diego Food Bank, Feeding America San Diego, and their partner pantries countywide comes from this tax credit program.

Status

We’re excited to report that the provisions in this bill were included in the California budget that was signed by Governor Jerry Brown.  

Increased Budget for Breakfast After The Bell

What does it do?

This would offer more high-need schools the ability to use innovative Breakfast After The Bell programs to increase children’s access to breakfast by providing it in the classroom.

Why is it important?

One in five 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. Many students have limited access to breakfast programs that open before school starts. Breakfast After The Bell programs bring breakfast into the classroom, ensuring all children have the nutrition they need to succeed.

Status

We’re excited to report that the California budget for 2016-2017 included $2 million dollars in grant funds for public schools that want to startup or expand after-the-bell breakfast programs.

Increased Budget for Nutrition Incentive Matching Grants

What does it do?

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.

Why is it important?

In 2014, $450,000 in incentives drove $2M in spending on fresh fruits and vegetables at participating markets. That is a Social Return on Investment (SROI) of 440%, which is unprecedented in healthy eating interventions.

Status

We’re excited to report that the California budget for 2016-2016 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

Does Your Call Matter? Four Ways to Make Your Voice Heard

Ever wonder whether your call, email or letter to an elected official will really make a difference? Research shows that citizens have more power than they realize. According to The Alliance to End Hunger, constituents who make the effort to personally communicate with their senators and representatives can be even more influential than lobbyists and news editors. How can we make our voices heard to advocate for better anti-hunger policies and programs?

Here are four of our favorite tips from “The Advocacy Playbook,” developed by The Alliance to End Hunger. Click here to read the full playbook.

  • Yes, pick up the phone. In a recent study, 86 percent of congressional staff members said phone calls from constituents can influence a legislator who is undecided on an issue.
  • Personalize your letter... In a recent study, 90 percent of congressional staff members said individualized letters from constituents can influence on a legislator who is undecided on an issue. A letter with a personal story, as opposed to a form letter, was seen as more influential. Elected officials usually keep track of the number of letters from their constituents on various topics and whether people favor or oppose an issue.
  •  …and your email. Individualized e-mails are just as influential as letters. In addition, e-mails arrive immediately and do not require security screenings as letters do.
  • Visit in person if possible. According to a recent study, 97 percent of congressional staff members said in-person visits from constituents had the best chance of influencing a legislator who is undecided on an issue.

It’s Hunger Action Month: How will you get involved in the fight against hunger?

It’s Hunger Action Month: How will you get involved in the fight against hunger?

The Hunger Coalition and its allies, including Hunger Advocacy Network, Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank, Feeding America San Diego, 2-1-1 San Diego and Jewish Family Services, have come together to create opportunities for the San Diego community to get involved in the fight against hunger during this important month. The Hunger Coalition invites you to walk a mile in the shoes of the hungry by living on a food stamp budget for one week with the CalFresh Challenge September 21-27. Please join us to close out the month at the Hunger Coalition’s event on September 30.  Click here to read about other ways to get involved!

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SDHC Receives Grant to Increase Access to Healthy Food for Head Start Families

The San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC) works to identify and address systemic barriers to participation in CalFresh, and we have a special focus on vulnerable populations not being successfully reached through existing outreach efforts. Though Head Start families are almost 100% eligible for CalFresh, only 40% are enrolled countywide.

With a $10,000 grant from Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, San Diego, SDHC is launching a new program to connect Head Start families to CalFresh benefits and nutrition education. We are developing a new outreach program tailored for Head Start providers, and our partners on this initial pilot will be Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) Head Start and 2-1-1 San Diego.  AKA Head Start serves over 1,500 very low-income three- to five-year-olds at 13 centers in East San Diego County. 

When asked why they have not applied for CalFresh benefits, AKA Head Start families have reported they do not understand eligibility guidelines, need help applying, and/or fear cultural stigma or adverse effects on family immigration status.  Our program will: (1) train Head Start staff on CalFresh application assistance; (2) pair AKA with 2-1-1 for the final stages of CalFresh enrollment through their telephone service; and (3) match the Head Start provider with one or more agencies providing nutrition education. 

We anticipate this will increase the food purchasing power of at least 350 AKA Head Start families by an average of $150 per month through CalFresh enrollment. Other expected outcomes are increased knowledge and motivation to purchase and prepare healthy foods and a decrease in the overall rate of overweight or obesity among AKA Head Start children by 5% during the 2015/2016 school year. 

This pilot project will be self-sustaining, because we are increasing the capacity of AKA Head Start through training, arranging what will be ongoing partnerships, and working with AKA to incorporate the program into organizational protocols.  AKA, 2-1-1, and nutrition educators are all funded by federal, state, and county programs for their elements of the program. The long-term strategy is to scale up the program model developed through this pilot with Head Start providers countywide. 

Hunger Coalition Conducts FIRST CalFresh 101 Training in Spanish

Hunger Coalition Conducts FIRST CalFresh 101 Training in Spanish

In San Diego County, 25.2% of households speak Spanish at home. Many bilingual case managers and outreach workers fall into this category.  To better serve our nonprofit partners and help improve their CalFresh outreach, the Hunger Coalition is now providing CalFresh 101 class in Spanish. We held our first ever CalFresh 101 Training in Spanish on March 19th in Vista and the second on April 17thin City Heights.

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CA Lifts Ban on CalFresh for People with Prior Drug Felony Conviction

CA Lifts Ban on CalFresh for People with Prior Drug Felony Conviction

California’s recent lifting of a ban on CalFresh for those with a former drug conviction means access to critical food resources for individuals trying to turn their lives around. From advocating to repeal the ban to ensuring the new regulations are implemented on the ground, SDHC has been an important leader on this issue.

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