Food Insecurity on College Campuses

Written by: Salma Soliman, Student Intern, University of California, San Diego (Graduated 2019)

Since the beginning of 2015, San Diego Hunger Coalition (SDHC) has been working towards addressing the unfortunate yet prevalent issue of college hunger. In an effort to meet students where they are, the Hunger Coalition has brought together campuses and hunger relief partners to provide food assistance and resources to low-income students.

Food or books?

With the on-going inflation of college tuition and cost of living, the number of students struggling with food insecurity has increased greatly; more than 40 percent of University of California and California State University students have reported food insecurity in recent years. Due to financial struggles, many students are forced to skip meals which results in an array of negative effects, including deciding whether to prioritize school or their health.

College hunger must be addressed and prioritized. If it persists, it has the power to widen the disparities in academic success and health. If students are struggling to meet basic needs it is likely they will struggle in different aspects of their life, including their academic work. Those who are food insecure, not getting the appropriate amount of nutrition needed, often feel less energized, have difficulty focusing, and tend to prolong their studies three times more than those students who did not experience food insecurity.  

Up until a few years ago there was little discussion around college hunger. The old trope of the starving college student who lives on ramen normalized college hunger. Within the past few years a new discourse has emerged. The passage of critical state legislation (AB1930) created a window of opportunity for San Diego Hunger Coalition to mobilize the hunger relief community and campuses to connect students to food resources, beginning with CalFresh/SNAP. For the past four years, the CalFresh Task Force has prioritized, “Connecting College Students to CalFresh,” resulting in the development of an online toolkit, San Diego County specialists stationed at college campuses, and dozens of CalFresh-in-a-Day workshops hosted at more than 10 campuses across the county.

CalFresh, paired with expanding on-campus food pantries, provides students with the support they need to refocus their energies on academic success!


If you or someone you know is a college student and needs food assistance, San Diego Hunger Coalition can help! Check out our College Hunger Toolkit!


College students want to be heard:

If you could tell anything to politicians or the media about CalFresh or student hunger, what would it be?

“I would just say to listen – listen to what the community is saying, because obviously we are saying it for a reason. We are not complaining for no reason. Take notice of what is going on in the community because it is a dire need out there for food, people really are struggling.”

-Imani, Student at San Diego State University

Could you speak to the challenges of student hunger?

“It’s kind of tough, you know. Sometimes I just survive on granolas. I could show you the amount of granolas I have in my backpack – it’s so many. Because sometimes I just don’t have enough money to go buy food every day .”

Mitzy, Student at San Diego University

What do you think some common misconceptions people have about CalFresh are?

“I think one of the misconceptions is that it’s wrong to ask the government for help. I’m hoping that one day I’ll graduate and have the kind of money to give back what I took. Some people are really stubborn – they don’t want to have other people help them.”

-Edward, Student at San Diego State University

Can you speak to why you are passionate about student hunger?

“I am passionate about student hunger because I know what it feels like. I’ve been there. I’m currently still there, in those shoes. And I wouldn’t want another student to feel hungry or even to go through those kind of feelings that I’ve been through…”

-Elaine, Student at Southwestern College

2019 CalFresh Challenge

Every year, the San Diego Hunger Coalition challenges San Diego residents to eat on the average CalFresh budget for up to five days. For the 2019 CalFresh Challenge, the budget was $4.07/day per person. The purpose of the challenge is to raise awareness of hunger in our communities while giving people a glimpse of what it is like to live on a meager food budget.

This year, several of our staff members took the CalFresh Challenge for the full five days. Below are some pictures from their week.

If you took the CalFresh Challenge, we would love to hear about your experiences in the comments below. If you were unable to take the challenge this year, that’s okay! There are lots of ways you can support hunger relief in our community, including making a donation to support our CalFresh Outreach Program.


Joe Shumate, Communications Officer

Shopping trip for Joe and his wife. They found it easier to stay on the CalFresh budget if they prepared a mostly vegan menu.

Shopping trip for Joe and his wife. They found it easier to stay on the CalFresh budget if they prepared a mostly vegan menu.

Joe’s lunch every day during the CalFresh Challenge.

Joe’s lunch every day during the CalFresh Challenge.

Joe’s dinner for two nights of the challenge.

Joe’s dinner for two nights of the challenge.

This was Joe’s dinner for one of the nights. He was finishing up his master’s degree with late-night classes and found he didn’t have the energy to cook by the time he got home after working all day and then going to school.

This was Joe’s dinner for one of the nights. He was finishing up his master’s degree with late-night classes and found he didn’t have the energy to cook by the time he got home after working all day and then going to school.

Dinner for Joe and his wife - cucumber nori rolls.

Dinner for Joe and his wife - cucumber nori rolls.


Amanda Schultz Brochu, Senior Director of Programs

Amanda’s shopping trip for the CalFresh Challenge. Amanda has done this challenge for several years and has learned how to shop for healthy and filling food on a limited budget. It’s a skill and takes time.

Amanda’s shopping trip for the CalFresh Challenge. Amanda has done this challenge for several years and has learned how to shop for healthy and filling food on a limited budget. It’s a skill and takes time.


Jaqueline Hess, CalFresh Program Manager

Jaqueline’s shopping trip for the CalFresh Challenge.

Jaqueline’s shopping trip for the CalFresh Challenge.

Dinner and Jaqueline’s lunches for the week.

Dinner and Jaqueline’s lunches for the week.

One of Jaqueline’s dinners. She admits it wasn’t the healthiest choice, but it was one of the most affordable on her limited budget.

One of Jaqueline’s dinners. She admits it wasn’t the healthiest choice, but it was one of the most affordable on her limited budget.

CA Seniors, people with disabilities, newly eligible for both SSI and CalFresh!

Starting in June 2019, major changes are coming to Californians who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Previously, SSI recipients were ineligible in California to also receive CalFresh (SNAP) benefits. This will end in June!

For more information, check out our SSI Repients page on our website.

Nonprofit and community organizations can find helpful resources on our SSI partner page.


Background:

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When the SSI program began in the 1970’s, states were given the option to include a cash benefit for food, lumped into SSI payments, instead of providing food stamps for SSI recipients. This was known as the “SSI Cashout” and was a way for states to save on administrative costs while still providing for their low-income residents.

Over the years, the SSI Cashout has become a problem for many low-income Californians. One of the problems is that the $10 food benefit started in the 1970’s never saw an increase. in 2019, SSI recipients still get the same $10 for food assistance, while they remain ineligible for CalFresh benefits. Additionally, the current individual SSI benefit total is the same level it was in 1983! Someone on SSI will receive an average payment of $932/month while the 2019 federal poverty level is $1,040/.month.

What does this all mean?

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Many Californians are below the poverty level and struggling to meet their basic needs. Those on SSI often have to make the tough choices between paying for housing, medicine, and food. The Hunger Coalition was active and instrumental in gathering momentum to end SSI Cashout an reinstate state funding to increase SSI benefits and a Cost of Living Adjustment. This year, these efforts were successful! The changes that take effect in June 2019 have the potential to significantly reduce food insecurity among seniors and people with disabilities in San Diego County and across the state of California.

The San Diego Hunger Coalition is actively training and working with local nonprofit organizations, the County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency, and the California Department of Social Services to educate and inform those affected by the changes and encourage those eligible for CalFresh to apply. We have created special web pages with information and resources for both SSI recipients and the organizations that serve them.

Questions? Contact Jaqueline Hess, CalFresh Program Manager, at jaqueline@sdhunger.org.

San Diego Hunger Coalition and the Hunger Advocacy Network Oppose the Cuts and Changes to SNAP Included in the House of Representative’s Draft of the Farm Bill

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.

A Year in Review 2017

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.

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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.

You can get involved in the fight against hunger by signing up to be a Hunger Free Activist, sharing your experience with CalFresh, or making a donation to support our work.

REPLACEMENT CALFRESH AVAILABLE FOR RESIDENTS AFFECTED BY SAN DIEGO COUNTY WILDFIRES & POWER OUTAGES

Last updated: December 14, 2017

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Replacement CalFresh

Due to the number of residents affected by power outages and wildfires in San Diego County, the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency received a waiver that extends the deadline to request Replacement CalFresh. Residents who lost benefits and live in the impacted zip codes below have until January 4, 2018 to request Replacement CalFresh.

The impacted zip codes include: 91901, 91905, 91906, 91916, 91917, 91931, 91934, 91935, 91948, 91962, 91963, 91980, 92003, 92026, 92027, 92028, 92036, 92054, 92056, 92057, 92058, 92059, 92060, 92061, 92065, 92066, 92069, 92070, 92082, 92083, 92084, and 92086.

Residents requesting replacement CalFresh must complete a CF 303 Form (English  | Spanish) and an Affidavit of Loss form (English | Spanish). These forms must be submitted in person at a County of San Diego HHSA Family Resource Center (find a location here) or the Local Assistance Center at the Vista Branch Library (700 Eucalyptus Avenue). 

Benefits will be restored to the CalFresh EBT card for that individual or household. The maximum replacement benefit individuals can recoup is one full month’s worth of benefits. Replacement Requests will be processed and benefits will be reissued within 10 days of submitting.

Local Assistance Center (LAC) open from December 11 - 16, 2017

The County of San Diego has opened a Local Assistance Center in Vista to help individuals and families affected by the Lilac Fire. County and community-based organizations will be available this week to provide case management, crisis counseling and referral services, tax relief information and records replacement, short-term housing referrals, CalFresh/SNAP resources and information, information on residential rebuilding and permitting and consumer fraud and a mobile medical clinic. For more information, residents can call or visit:

  • Local Assistance Center is located at the Vista branch library at 700 Eucalyptus Avenue and will be open from 9am- 6pm. the site will remain open until Saturday, December 16th. 
  • Residents who live in the unincorporated part of San Diego County may call the Recovery Assistance Hotline at 858.495.5200 or email CountyFireRecovery@sdcounty.ca.gov.

Congratulations to our 2017 CalFresh Award Winners

The collaborative power of the CalFresh Task Force is fueled by the passion and innovation of its members.  The annual CalFresh Task Force Awards honor individuals and organizations making major strides toward ending hunger in San Diego County. Awardees are nominated and voted for by Task Force members.

CalFresh Outreach Partner of the Year – Legal Aid Society of San Diego

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Laura Zuniga-Huizar of Legal Aid Society of San Diego with the CalFresh Outreach Partner of the Year award. Laura accepted   the award on behalf of her colleague Tila Nunn-Miller.

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Laura Zuniga-Huizar of Legal Aid Society of San Diego with the CalFresh Outreach Partner of the Year award. Laura accepted the award on behalf of her colleague Tila Nunn-Miller.

Tila Nunn-Miller of Legal Aid Society of San Diego is a phenomenal advocate for individuals who encounter difficulties navigating the CalFresh process. Through her work, Tila ensures all parties understand the process, rules, and regulations that govern CalFresh benefits. Tila is a social justice champion who prides herself on assisting others and gives her all to assist anyone with CalFresh, CalWORKS, General Relief, and CAPI questions. While Tila was unable to attend the end of the year CalFresh Task Force meeting where the awards were presented, her colleague Laura Zuniga-Huizar (pictured above) accepted the award on her behalf.

CalFresh County Liaison of the Year – Michael and Patrick Schmidt, Program Specialists

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Patrick Schmidt with the CalFresh County Liaison of the Year award. Patrick also accepted the award on behalf of Michael Schmidt who was unable to attend the CalFresh end of year meeting.

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Patrick Schmidt with the CalFresh County Liaison of the Year award. Patrick also accepted the award on behalf of Michael Schmidt who was unable to attend the CalFresh end of year meeting.

Michael and Patrick Schmidt support community-based organizations’ work to ensure eligible residents are awarded CalFresh benefits through their work managing the County of San Diego HHSA’s new case issue escalation email. Created in conjunction with the San Diego Hunger Coalition, the HHSA escalation email allows community organizations to elevate challenging cases to a team of experts for additional investigation and support. Michael and Patrick’s team provides quick and thorough customer service which allows for a prompt resolution to any case issues partners may experience. Community partners reported, “clients have provided great feedback from their interactions working with both Michael and Patrick and expressed feeling like their concerns are properly addressed.” Michael was unable to attend the end of year CalFresh Task Force meeting, Patrick (pictured above) accepted the award on both of their behalves.

CalFresh Outreach Partner & County Collaboration – La Maestra Community Health Centers, Health Coverage Access, and EOPS Department at Southwestern College

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu   presents Daniela Cervantes of La Maestra Community Health Centers and Monica Moreno of Health Coverage Access with the CalFresh Outreach Partner and County Collaboration award.  

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Daniela Cervantes of La Maestra Community Health Centers and Monica Moreno of Health Coverage Access with the CalFresh Outreach Partner and County Collaboration award. 

Starting in the fall of 2016, La Maestra Community Health Centers began working with the Southwestern College’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) Department and Health Coverage Access (HCA) to provide same-day-service CalFresh application assistance on campus. La Maestra reported, “this new partnership has made it easier to connect likely eligible students participating in EOPS with CalFresh benefits by providing onsite support and simplifying the application process.” The Hunger Coalition is happy to have facilitated this partnership, resulting in ongoing efforts to connect eligible students to benefits, including seven same-day-service events on campus last academic year.

CalFresh Outreach Partner & Community Collaboration – Feeding San Diego and the EOPS Department at San Diego City College

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Rachel Oporto of Feeding San Diego and Salem Berhanu and Mercedes Tiggs of San Diego City College with the CalFresh award for Outreach Partner and Community Collaboration.

San Diego Hunger Coalition Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz Brochu presents Rachel Oporto of Feeding San Diego and Salem Berhanu and Mercedes Tiggs of San Diego City College with the CalFresh award for Outreach Partner and Community Collaboration.

After meeting at a CalFresh Task Force meeting, San Diego City College’s Extended Opportunity Programs and Services (EOPS) Department and Feeding San Diego partnered to provide CalFresh application assistance on campus, and are going strong! The EOPS team has worked diligently to make it easier for students to successfully access benefits, collaborating with their financial aid department to help students successfully obtain necessary forms, and always keeping an open door for students to come ask questions about their case. Currently, Feeding San Diego is onsite on a monthly basis and is working with the EOPS team to partner with the Disability Support Programs and Services department and Mental Health department to further expand CalFresh outreach.

San Diego Hunger Coalition Facilitates Panel on Hunger and Healthcare for Be There San Diego

Experts in healthcare and hunger participate in Be There San Diego’s University of Best Practices series. 

Experts in healthcare and hunger participate in Be There San Diego’s University of Best Practices series. 

Our Senior Director of CalFresh and Advocacy, Amanda Schultz-Brochu, recently organized and moderated an eye-opening panel on screening for food insecurity at healthcare settings hosted by Be There San Diego as part of their University of Best Practices series. Amanda engaged experts in healthcare about their work related to food insecurity, the innovative programs they have launched to address this issue, and the impact their work has had on their patient’s health. The Hunger Coalition’s Rx for CalFresh report has served as a catalyst for screening for food insecurity at healthcare settings.

Click here to read more about this important discussion from Be There San Diego. 

Why 1 in 6 People in San Diego County Don't Have Enough to Eat

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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.

Policies

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

 

San Diego Hunger Coalition Releases Latest Food Insecurity Data for San Diego County – 1 in 6 Don’t Have Enough to Eat.

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. 
 

More than 150 San Diegans Live on a Food Budget of $4.18/Day to Raise Awareness About Hunger

Caption: UC San Diego students wear orange buttons to show they are taking the #CalFreshChallenge.

Caption: UC San Diego students wear orange buttons to show they are taking the #CalFreshChallenge.

Can you live on a food budget of $4.18/day? More than 150 San Diegans did between May 8 and 12 to raise awareness and money to fight hunger in our community as part of the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s annual #CalFreshChallenge. This year’s Challenge took place in May to coincide with CalFresh Awareness month.  Each year, the Hunger Coalition challenges people to live on the average CalFresh (also known as SNAP or food stamps) benefit per person which is now $4.18/day in San Diego County. Participants could take the Challenge for 1 day or a full 5 days.

 
 

Additionally, Challenge participants and community partners helped raise more than $6,700 throughout the month of May to support the CalFresh Task Force’s work to connect eligible people in need to the program. Top fundraisers were:

  • Top Staff Fundraiser – Dr. Heidi Gjertsen
  • Top Non-Staff Fundraisers – Vi Calvo, Dave Rice, Luke Vickrey
  • Top CalFresh Partner Fundraiser – Ana Echeverria Rubio and the HHSA Hunger Fighters
  • Top Community Partner Fundraiser – 10 Barrel Brewing Company

CalFresh provides temporary assistance in a person or family’s time of need. According to the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, more than 285,000 people – nearly half of whom are children – are receiving CalFresh benefits. The average time households in San Diego County receive CalFresh is less than two years. 

With federal support and funding for SNAP uncertain under the current administration, joining the fight against hunger in our region is more important than ever and doesn’t end with the #CalFreshChallenge. Sign-up to become a Hunger Free Activist and receive periodic opportunities for you to use your voice to advocate for state and federal anti-hunger policies. Learn more and sign up here.

Thank you to everyone who took this year’s #CalFreshChallenge and came to our happy hour to our happy hour on May 25th!

CalFresh Task Force Aims to Connect Hard to Reach Populations: College Students and Immigrant Families in 2017 Priorities

Low-income college students and immigrant families are the two food insecure populations the San Diego Hunger Coalition's CalFresh Task Force's is focused on connecting to the program in 2017.

The current administration’s stance on immigration has created fear and confusion among low-income immigrant families causing many to forgo accessing food assistance. Partners shared that immigrants (mixed status households and legal permanent residents) have expressed more concerns about CalFresh negatively impacting their immigration status. Together with our partners we are working to provide immigrant families and the public with accurate information and resources while also collaborating on ways to adapt and evolve programming to meet the needs of this portion of our community. At the Task Force’s regional meeting in May the Hunger Coalition welcomed David Loy, Legal Director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties and Itzel Guillen, Human Rights Organizer for Alliance San Diego who shared their expertise on the rights of immigrant families when it comes to accessing food assistance.

David Loy, Legal Director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties presents on the rights of immigrant families and accessing food assistance at the May CalFresh Task Force regional meeting.

David Loy, Legal Director for the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties presents on the rights of immigrant families and accessing food assistance at the May CalFresh Task Force regional meeting.

The Task Force's work with college students stems from recent state program updates clarifying and expanding college student CalFresh eligibility and from recent studies that indicate high prevalence of food insecurity among college students. A recent report from the University of Wisconsin shows that two thirds of community college students are food insecure.

The Task Force’s is also focused on improving the CalFresh application process. This year’s process priorities stem from challenges San Diego residents reported to local community partners while trying to access CalFresh benefits. These priorities aim to make the application process easier by improving two of the top three reasons why otherwise eligible applicants are denied benefits: the ability to complete the required CalFresh interview and the ability to easily submit necessary verification documents. After receiving in-depth feedback on these issues from the CalFresh Task Force partners, the Hunger Coalition is working closely with the San Diego County Health and Human Service Agency (HHSA) to identify opportunities to improve internal County processes to resolve the issues identified and further streamline the application process.

As the facilitator of the CalFresh Task Force, the Hunger Coalition will support work to outreach to college students and immigrant families by bringing organization representatives from these populations together with members of the Task Force and the County of San Diego HHSA to collaborate on ways to more effectively connect people in need to food assistance and to ensure these partners have a consistent understanding of eligibility regulations. By bringing external partners to the table with CalFresh application assistance agencies and County HHSA representatives, stronger partnerships with unique perspectives can develop. The Hunger Coalition provides support and expertise in external meetings to develop new or tailored strategies to meet the needs of specific populations. Once partnerships are established, organizations are invited to report back to the CalFresh Task Force regarding their progress, lessons learned and best practices.

At the end of the year, the Task Force will recap the progress made to provide direct application assistance to this year’s priority populations.

#MythbusterMonday - May 2017 Myths Busted

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.

May 1

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.

May 8

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

May 15

#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.  

May 22
#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! 

May 29

#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. 


Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter

2017 #CalFreshChallenge - Cassandra's Challenge Experience

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.


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Grocery list

  • 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

Total 18.80

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.

#MythbusterMonday - April 2017 Myths Busted

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:

April 10

#MythbusterMonday "SNAP recipients use their benefits to buy alcohol and cigarettes." False! These items cannot be purchased with SNAP. Click here to find out what items are eligible.

April 17

#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

April 24 

#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. 


Follow the San Diego Hunger Coalition on Facebook and Twitter - @SDHungerCo. 

We're a Proud Partner of the #MarchForScience!

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.

Save the Dates! Our CalFresh Challenge is right around the corner - May 8 - 12

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 pmIn 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.

Hunger Advocacy Network Visits Members of Congress in D.C.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting    #CalFresh    with    Senator Dianne Feinstein   ’s staff.

The Hunger Advocacy Network and our state-level advocacy partners spoke about protecting #CalFresh with Senator Dianne Feinstein’s staff.

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.

The National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference was co-sponsored by Feeding America and the Food Research & Action Center in cooperation with the National CACFP Forum.

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.

Amanda presents on Hunger & Healthcare at Statewide Conference

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity.

For the first time, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is recommending pediatricians screen all children for food insecurity.

Experts in the healthcare field are now better prepared to screen for food insecurity in their settings thanks to a presentation made by our CalFresh Outreach Director Amanda Schultz Brochu at this year’s California Food Policy Advocate’s CalFresh Forum.

The annual forum brings together hundreds of key stakeholders from across the state to identify opportunities and discuss strategies to improve the reach of CalFresh.

Amanda was a panelist with other public health and hunger experts presenting on models from their communities for identifying food-insecure patients in healthcare settings and connecting them to CalFresh and other food assistance programs. She presented on the San Diego Hunger Coalition's 2014-2016 work to integrate food insecurity screenings into healthcare settings in San Diego County, which included coordinating Rx for CalFresh pilots across six unique healthcare settings and developing a food security and healthcare curriculum in partnership with the UC San Diego School of Medicine. This work was the basis for our groundbreaking report Launching Rx for CalFresh in San Diego County: Integrating Food Security into Healthcare Settings.

Most of the San Diego pilots utilized the two-question screener developed by the USDA which has been scientifically validated to accurately identify individuals who are currently experiencing food insecurity. In a sample of 30,000 patients, the two-question screener identified 97% of food insecurity cases.  Patients at participating healthcare providers were asked to answer “often true,” sometimes true,” or “never true,” over the last twelve months if:

1.    We worried whether our food would run out before we got the money to buy more.

2.    The food we bought just didn’t last and we didn’t have money to get more.

The San Diego pilots also helped identify the best options for enrolling patients in CalFresh ranging from referring patients to a local nonprofit providing application assistance, which can be a challenge for patients if the organization is not located within close proximity to where a client lives or works, to on-demand on-site assistance which has the best enrollment results but requires a full-time application assister. Clinics and hospitals that provide their own CalFresh application assistance often pair this with their existing Medi-Cal assistance program. 

An important part of Amanda’s presentation were the lessons learned from our Rx for CalFresh pilots. These included training medical staff on the connection between food security and health outcomes, as well as how to pose what can be very sensitive questions. Integrating screenings into Electronic Health Records was also found to be key in evaluating the process and outcomes and creating replicable templates that make it easier for more healthcare settings to use. 

Each panelist stressed the importance of being results driven and creating measurable action in order to get funding and effect policy as well as  using a collective impact approach to share learnings and metrics with others in the hunger, poverty and healthcare fields.

As a result of Amanda’s presentation, Second Harvest Food Bank in Orange County has already reached out to a healthcare system in their area to explore integrating food security resources.

Congrats to Marcia & all of this year’s “Freshy” Award Nominees!

San Diego Hunger Coalition CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia

San Diego Hunger Coalition CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia

At this year’s California Food Policy Advocate’s CalFresh Forum, our very own CalFresh Outreach Coordinator Marcia Garcia was part of prestigious group recognized for their outreach to expand and improve the CalFresh program in their communities. She was among the leaders nominated for the conference’s “Freshy” awards in the category of Innovative Outreach Leader of the Year. Partners are encouraged to nominate and vote for each other. The awards also recognize outstanding program administrators, grassroots mobilizers, and improvements in CalFresh utilization rates by individual counties.

Marcia has worked with the San Diego Hunger Coalition to increase access to CalFresh for the past two years. During that time, she has demonstrated herself to be a leader in providing technical assistance and guidance to both clients and partners in navigating the complex CalFresh regulations and eligibility guidelines. She has served as a facilitator for Benchmark Institute’s FAST training and has developed countless outreach materials to spread the word about important program changes affecting San Diego County. Marcia regularly goes the extra mile to make applying for CalFresh easier. Her commitment to the CalFresh community and those served by the San Diego Hunger Coalition’s work can be heard every day as she brings levity to challenging conversations.

Marcia was among 10 experts nominated for the Innovative Outreach Leader of the Year. Also amongst those nominated was San Diego’s Juliana Vega, CalFresh Outreach Coordinator at our partner the San Diego Food Bank. The Freshy was awarded to Elizabeth Gomez, Associate Director of Client Services for the Alameda County Community Food Bank. While there could only be one winner this year, we are so proud Marcia was recognized for her great work to end hunger in San Diego County. The communities of all of the nominees benefit directly from their contributions.