NHF Supports New Funding Proposals that Expand Food Access
In the first half of 2021, California made historic investments in anti-hunger programs that expand qualifications and access to healthy and affordable food. Such investments respond directly to the state’s growing food insecurity problem. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, 1 in 5 L.A. County residents experienced food insecurity. That number increased to 1 in 4 residents during the pandemic, with 65% being women and children. Low-income families and communities of color were among those hardest hit as they grappled with job loss, school closures, and navigated health and financial stresses caused by the health crisis.
In fact, NHF’s CalFresh Connection team saw first-hand the impacts of hunger among the individuals and families it serves every day. Following California’s first statewide closure in May 2020, our team was flooded with phone calls, with CalFresh applications skyrocketing by 139%. It was clear that greater investment in the long-term health of those most impacted by food insecurity, including BIPOC, low-income communities, was long overdue.
With the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the hunger crisis in the state, a community of advocates stepped in to demand a healthier, more accessible California. Following months of their tireless advocacy and leadership, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a new Budget Act of 2021-2022 that includes comprehensive investments to strengthen California’s food safety net — setting our state on a promising path towards health equity and nutrition for ALL its citizens. We’ve laid out a few of the core proposals included in Newsom’s latest budget that aim to transform the health of Los Angeles communities in unprecedented ways.
SB464 – Food4All
This newest state budget includes funding that will effectively expand the California Food Assistance Program (CFAP) to immigrants originally locked out of CalFresh just for their immigration status. The proposal sets the precedent that regardless of income, immigration status, race or ethnicity, every child, adult, and family should have adequate access to the food they need.
NHF was proud to work alongside leaders and advocates, including Nourish CA, the California Immigrant Policy Center, The Latino Coalition for a Healthy California, and Central Valley Immigrant Integration Collaborative, to ensure Food4All was included in this year’s budget. After receiving a grant from Nourish CA, NHF got to work cultivating its own Food4All coalition, made up of its local community members, including alumni of NHF’s Health Academy Program. NHF hosted several trainings about ways to advocate for Food4All, how to call state representatives, and using your voice to educate others. Stephanie Monterroza, NHF’s Senior Program Manager met directly with Senator Anthony Portantillo, Chair of the State’s Senate Appropriations Committee, to discuss the importance of Food4All for Los Angeles communities.
“The work of NHF and many other grassroots organizations is important and impactful. Our community’s stories need to be shared with policy makers for them to make changes that help our communities, especially in times of crisis,” said Monterroza. “Families should not be going hungry at night because they do not have enough to eat, especially in a state that has an abundance of food.”
While the proposal to fund Food4All is a positive step forward, long-term commitments are needed to ensure Food4All is appropriated on a permanent basis.
Free School Meals for Kids K-12
Adequate nutrition is vital for individual health and well-being. This is especially true for school-aged children whose access to healthy foods can shape future health and development. The Budget Act of 2021-2022 includes funding for the Universal School Meals program — a historic policy that makes California the first in the nation to provide free school meals for all kids in grades K through 12. This proposal will include “an increase in state meal reimbursements by $54 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year and $650 million ongoing Proposition 98 funding beginning in 2022-23, to cover the costs of offering breakfast and lunch for all students.” The proposal provides needed relief for low-income children and families unable to afford the price of school meals. We encourage you to follow The Children’s Partnership online and on social media, a child nutrition organization behind the state’s push for the extension of free school meals beyond the pandemic.
This proposal recognizes childcare providers as essential workers on the frontlines of fighting hunger for children they care for. During the pandemic, many childcare providers were worried they would run out of food, with over half reporting they would often or sometimes run out. To stabilize California’s childcare infrastructure, an additional $15 million was included in the CA State Budget for the 2021-2022 fiscal year — a proposal that will help childcare providers and childcare centers serve meals to low-income children. Learn more about the issues impacting children and childcare providers directly from one of the advocates. Visit Nourish CA and the Child Care Resource Center.
CalFresh Application Updates
It is estimated that 30% of eligible Californians are not reached by CalFresh. This translates to $2 billion in nutrition benefits that could be helping families in need of food assistance. Thanks to the advocacy of several food equity groups, including Senator Scott Wiener, CA Association of Food Banks, and AARP California, the latest budget allocated funding for SB107 that simplifies the tedious CalFresh application, making it more accessible and easier to fill out for older adults and individuals with disabilities. The application update includes a shorter paper form and the ability for individuals to apply over the phone with greater access to personalized support.
National Health Foundation commends Governor Newsom, state officials, and the many health advocates for their work to champion bold policies that lift Californians out of poverty while giving them access to the healthy, affordable food they need to thrive. While the above list does not cover all health investments made in the State Budget, our team is celebrating the long-sought victories that we know will directly benefit the communities we serve. And while our collective fight to reduce food and nutritional disparities is far from over, we look forward to the promising changes ahead.