Paper Plate Stories: Celebrating Six Victories to End Hunger

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.  

YESThis 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 or by calling 619-501-7917.  

Why Thousands of Military Families Don’t Have Access to Food Assistance

Civilian families across the U.S. depend on SNAP -  known as CalFresh in California - to purchase the food they need to make ends meet. But thanks to a tangle of legal red tape, many military families in need are denied access to this vital food resource.

Roughly 1.4 million men and women serve as active duty personnel in the United States military. Their families comprise another nearly 2 million people. Just as the men and women in uniform serve and sacrifice for the safety and security of our nation, so do their spouses and children. These families cope admirably with the stress and instability of frequent moves and deployments and, sometimes, injury or death of their loved ones.

They also sacrifice financially. Unemployment of military spouses reaches up to 30% according to the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, which has been attributed to frequent moves, deployments, a lack of job opportunities in some station locations, and increased parenting responsibilities due to the service members’ long hours. With reduced ability to have two breadwinners, the FINRA Investor Education Foundation found that in 2012 more than 40% of military personnel nationwide had difficulty making ends meet, rising to 56% of entry level personnel. Yet many of these families are not able to access the same federal assistance programs that other Americans rely on every day.

A Tangle of Red Tape

Rather than building and maintaining additional government-owned base housing, the Department of Defense (DoD) often relies on the private sector to address the housing needs for currently serving military families.  Military service members living off base receive a Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH). The BAH is based on geographic duty location, pay grade, and dependency status. The intent of the BAH is to provide uniformed service members adequate and equitable housing compensation based on housing costs in local civilian housing markets.  Since BAH is provided in lieu of on-base housing, federal tax law exempts BAH from taxation as income; however, there is lack of uniformity in how the BAH is treated in various basic needs assistance programs for military families. For example:

  • The IRS does not consider BAH taxable income and does not consider BAH to be earned income when determining eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) program.
  • The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program gives states the option to not count BAH as income for the purposes of determining eligibility and benefits.
  • Treatment of BAH in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program varies state by state.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) requires that states must count BAH as income for the purposes of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility. 
  • Eligibility for free and reduced price school meals is also impacted by a military family’s housing.

The Basic Allowance for Housing was never intended to be considered income. We need to uniformly exempt the BAH from consideration as income or asset for any government assistance program. This is a common sense fix to streamline how military housing allowances are assessed across government programs. Our military families should never have to worry about how they will provide enough food for their children.

We can untangle the red tape and help these military families put food on the table.

We need your help. Will you sign this petition to help make sure our military families don't have to go to bed hungry? Together, we can help our nation's heroes.

Sign the Petition

The Hunger Advocacy Network, facilitated by the San Diego Hunger Coalition, represents the voice of these families and the nearly half a million San Diegans who don’t have ready access to healthy, affordable food. We share their experiences with policymakers nationwide and advocate for improvements to anti-hunger policies and programs.

Hunger Coalition lobbies with the Hunger Advocacy Network at the State Capitol

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