August 24, 2021:
1. SNAP Benefits To Be Increased Nationwide
2. LA County Funds SNAP Incentives at $2 Million!
3. And All This is Good Because…Food Prices Are Going Up
1. SNAP Benefits To Be Increased Nationwide
From the USDA Press release on August 16 – “The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today released a re-evaluation of the Thrifty Food Plan, used to calculate Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. As a result, the average SNAP benefit – excluding additional funds provided as part of pandemic relief – will increase for Fiscal Year 2022 beginning on Oct. 1, 2021.”
“As directed by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill – and with the expressed support of President Biden’s January 22 Executive Order – USDA conducted a data-driven review of the Thrifty Food Plan. The resulting cost adjustment is the first time the purchasing power of the plan has changed since it was first introduced in 1975, reflecting notable shifts in the food marketplace and consumers’ circumstances over the past 45 years.”
“A modernized Thrifty Food Plan is more than a commitment to good nutrition – it’s an investment in our nation’s health, economy, and security,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Ensuring low-income families have access to a healthy diet helps prevent disease, supports children in the classroom, reduces health care costs, and more. And the additional money families will spend on groceries helps grow the food economy, creating thousands of new jobs along the way.”
SNAP is called CalFresh here in California, and there are 2.2 million recipients who will be happy to see their benefits go up. There are complications though; the benefit increase occurs at the same time that the 15% increase that was instituted for the pandemic will expire. And even though fixing the Thrifty Food Plan has been a long sought goal of anti-hunger advocates, it’s not the end-all of improving the SNAP program. A coalition of representatives in the House have re-introduced the “Closing the Meal Gap Act” (HR 4077), which cures some of the bureaucratic features of the program that reduce the amount of benefits that hungry individuals and families receive. The act was re-introduced on June 24:
2. LA County Funds SNAP Incentives at $2 Million
Shoppers using Market Match at Adams/Vermont Farmers Market. Market Match is one of the programs that will benefit from LA County's new investment in SNAP incentive programs
(From the American Heart Association press release)
Access to fresh fruits and vegetables just got a whole lot more reliable in Los Angeles with the Board of Supervisors approving of a $2 million boost to the county coffers that house funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives. The move means fewer LA county kids and seniors, individuals and adults will fall between the cracks of where hunger meets nutrition insecurity.
This is especially important today as two in five Angelenos have little or no access to healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. Without access to healthy foods, a nutritious diet and good health are unrealistic and can lead to chronic diseases including heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
“Food assistance programs such as SNAP help reduce food insecurity, but they do not fully meet the need that exists in our community,” explained Cathy Snuggs, a community organizer with Hunger Action Los Angeles. “SNAP incentive programs, like Market Match, are locally driven solutions that help food-insecure families stretch their food dollars to purchase additional fruits and vegetables.”
As a grantee of Voices for Healthy Kids, Hunger Action Los Angeles received the critical funding and technical assistance, which included advocacy and spokesperson trainings, necessary to make SNAP incentives expansion a success.
“SNAP incentives programs advance health equity by helping families with low incomes gain more access to healthy foods,” Snuggs continued. “They promote healthier diets and teach children healthy behaviors, establishing lifelong habits that will support their overall health and wellness. Without SNAP Incentive programs, thousands of families would be limited in their ability to purchase enough fruits and vegetables for their children.”
Hunger Action Los Angles and the American Heart Association collaborated with Boys and Girls Club, Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles (SEE-LA), Urban and Environmental Policy Institute and United Parents and Students to secure the $2 million investment. The groups worked together to engage grassroots advocates who gave testimony and signed petitions.
“These vital programs help the county’s most vulnerable residents gain access to additional healthy foods and promote local economic growth by partnering with growers, farmers markets, grocery stores, corner stores and other retailers and small businesses,” explained Ana Carr, the community advocacy director for the American Heart Association in Los Angeles. “In fact, every $5 spent using SNAP generates as much as $9 in economic activity.”
Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved the $2 million investment in early August. The County has already begun work to determine how the funds will be distributed so that local families can soon access the fruits and vegetables they need.
Carr noted that, moving forward, it will be important for the County to fund SNAP incentive programs annually to provide the ongoing support local families and businesses need.
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- BREAKING NEWS: #LosAngeles Invests $2 Million into SNAP Incentives Fund, making access to fresh fruits and vegetables a lot more reliable in the city! spr.ly/1343
3. And All This is Good Because…Food Prices Are Going Up
Four writers at Bloomberg Businessweek have collaborated on a story that examines how food prices have risen during the pandemic:
“Whether at supermarkets, corner stores, or open-air markets, prices for food have been surging in much of the world, forcing families to make tough decisions about their diets. Meat is often the first to go, ceding space to less expensive proteins such as dairy, eggs, or beans. In some households, a glass of milk has become a luxury reserved only for children; fresh fruit, once deemed a necessity, is now a treat.
Food prices in July were up 31% from the same month last year, according to an index compiled by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. A portion of the rise is transitory, fueled by supply chain disruption and extreme weather. Although some of the bottlenecks caused by the pandemic show signs of abating, structural factors such as climate change and China’s strong appetite for imports will likely endure.”
The article shines a spotlight on one family each in Nigeria, Brazil, India and the U.S. to show how the food prices have made an impact on daily choices. Many children are going without nutritious food; fresh fruit, milk and meat are skipped from the diet. For other families, it’s more of a nuisance than a crisis, but nonetheless still weighs heavy on economic decisions.
All of which plays up the importance of programs like SNAP and incentives that allow families to purchase more fresh food for their SNAP dollars.
FEWER EMPTY PLATES IN THE GOLDEN STATE:
California Passes A State Budget That Funds Universal School Meals, Expands Food Assistance To All Residents, And Biggest Help In Years for Seniors, Disabled
On July 16, Governor Newsom signed the remaining trailer bills concerning food and nutrition policies to implement the Budget Act of 2021-22.
The California Governor has just signed a budget funding an unprecedented number of safety net programs, including historic firsts that would remove stigma and bureaucracy from school meals by making them free for all children; creating equity through the expansion of CalFresh food assistance to all Californians regardless of immigration status: and reversing the trend of diminishing SSI grants for seniors, blind and disabled with the largest increase in monthly benefits in decades.
None of the measures will take effect immediately; the CalFresh expansion in particular will take years to accomplish and only the automation infrastructure for the change is actually funded. But they represent the collective success of California’s anti-hunger agencies, food banks and advocacy organizations who laid out the case for the community’s need, and they represent the courage of our legislators in pushing for such unprecedented assistance----a show of compassion in a country where the admirable trait of self-reliance has, in some quarters, been turned into aggressive hostility toward help for struggling neighbors.
For the most part, no other state has come close to taking these giant steps to end hunger. Maine has joined California in providing universal free school meals. California stands alone in declaring it will supplement federal SNAP benefits with its own dollars to add new populations to the ranks of the eligible. The expected $36 per month increase for SSI recipients will hopefully have a great impact in keeping people housed, as there are currently 1.1 million participants in the program which is funded by a combination of federal and state payments, and rent is by far the largest expense for these households.
The unusual convergence of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent aid to California, with much higher than expected revenues into the state provides the resources for these programmatic expansions.
Again, Hunger Action LA applauds the leadership of our state Assemblymembers and Senators in winning these victories for all residents struggling to get enough food in our state.
UNIVERSAL SCHOOL MEALS
California will begin offering free meals to all children in K-12 beginning next year. Specifically, the budget “launches the Universal School Meals Program, with 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.” Many thanks to Senator Nancy Skinner and her staff who have worked for years toward this incredible goal.
FOOD FOR ALL
The final budget signed includes funding to begin the process of expanding CalFresh to include all California residents. Senator Melissa Hurtado carried SB 464 to make this change, acknowledging among many other things the role that immigrants played as essential workers during the pandemic. Thanks to Nourish CA and the California Immigrant Policy Center for their leadership in gathering support for this bill.
REVERSAL OF CUTS TO SSI PROGRAM
Thanks to years of campaigning by the CA4SSI Coalition of which Hunger Action LA is a member, 1.1 million blind, senior and disabled Californians will finally see a substantial increase in monthly income. Benefits will be raised by $36 a month, moving the grant halfway through the cuts from 2009 , with a commitment to restore the remaining $36 over the next 2 years.
CALFRESH SIMPLER FOR SENIORS
After a campaign of three years led by Nourish CA and numerous allies, the state has finally agreed to create a simpler paper application for CalFresh for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as expand access to telephonic signatures for CalFresh applications.
FOOD BANK FUNDING AND FARM TO FAMILY TAX CREDIT
The budget includes $110 million in one-time funding for food banks to continue to meet the elevated need that began during the pandemic. It also provides $182 million to enhance food bank capacity. Finally, it extends the healthy food donation tax credit for five years. This is a tax credit for farms who are contributing to California’s food bank safety net.
GOLDEN STATE STIMULUS PLAN
The budget provides a second round of Golden State Stimulus (GSS) payments. It includes $8.1 billion for Californians with income of up to $75,000 and will even include some people regardless of immigration status.
All California residents over 50 who are otherwise meet the guidelines can now qualify for Medi-Cal regardless of immigration status. Our state will be better off as more residents are covered.
HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING
To address homelessness, the budget allocates $1 billion annually in local funding over the next two years and $2.75 billion in Project Homekey.
Highlights:Food Justice News November 24, 2020:
THANKSGIVING AND BEYOND
- A Quick Look At Community Fridges
- Cooked Foods Return To LA Farmers Markets
- Advocacy Begins To Help Small LA Food Businesses
- Andy Fisher: How One Organization Can Shorten Food Bank Lines Across the United States"
- Food Chain Workers Fight For Better Safety During Pandemic
- Updates on CalFresh: Rules Made Simpler for Seniors: Court Rules Stolen Benefits Must Be Restored
- Save the Month: May 2021
- A Quick Look At Community Fridges
By now many of you are familiar with the phenomenon of community fridges. Said to have originated in New York, these fridges have popped up in different parts of LA County since June of this year, supplied by grassroots volunteers with the pandemic being a major impetus. They are a low tech and simple solution to at least part of the food waste/hunger dilemma: People with extra food can drop off food into one of the unlocked community refrigerators; those who need food can take whatever they want.
An article by Kat Hong in The Infatuation from July explains more:
No good idea ever goes unpunished and it wasn’t long before at least one LA County municipality decided that a fridge had to be shut down. The City of Whittier used the vague reason that the fridge “wasn’t in the city code” and therefore apparently, could not be allowed to exist, a rationale that would certainly prevent any new inventions from ever being legal in the city. No flying cars in the year 2050 for Whittier, I suppose; they aren’t “in the city code.”
To locate a fridge near you, check out this
Christy Moser and her daughter Giuliana, 6, add to the community refrigerator at Frank’s Auto Upholstery on Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier on Friday October 23, 2020. The community refrigerator allows people to donate food or get food 24 hours a day. (Photo by Keith Durflinger, Contributing Photographer Whittier Daily News)
2. Cooked Foods Return To LA Farmers Markets
Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Allows Prepared Food Vendors to Return to Certified Farmers' Markets
Small Food Businesses and Market Operators Celebrate Decision
Prepared food vendors will begin returning to certified farmers' markets across Los Angeles County after the Department of Public Health issued an order permitting their return. The decision is being celebrated by hundreds of small food businesses throughout Los Angeles, many of which have been out of work for nearly eight months.
The order was advocated by LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis, who championed the cause of temporary food facilities. “Prepared food vendors are part of the fabric of Los Angeles County," said Supervisor Solis. "Yet these small businesses, often owned by residents of color, have endured profound suffering stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, in part, because they have been prohibited from serving prepared food at farmers markets. This is a matter of equity and I am pleased that, at my direction, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health now permits prepared food vendors to return to our farmers markets in LA County.”
SEE-LA and Farmer Mark were among many who petitioned for the return of the cooked food vendors, including also Hunger Action LA and the Studio City Farmers Market, who launched a change.org petition. Prepared food vendors were forced to leave farmers' markets on March 11th, when Governor Gavin Newsom called for the cancelation of community events. Across the state, departments of public health were left to interpret and grant exceptions to this ruling as they saw fit. In Orange and San Francisco Counties, markets were back to business as usual within a matter of weeks. In Los Angeles, however, packaged foods were permitted to return, while prepared foods were deemed too great a risk, even as restaurants reopened and sit-down dining resumed.. Most vendors saw their businesses wither, and went overnight from self-employed to unemployed.
This order puts hundreds of prepared food booths back in businesses. Farmers' markets and foodies across the city are celebrating.
Prepared food, allowed at restaurants during the pandemic, was banned from farmers markets in LA County from March until this past week, even though farmers markets would easily have been able to comply with distancing and other requirements
3. Advocacy Begins To Help Small LA Food Businesses
From our friends at the LA Food Policy Council, a campaign you can join to help implement LA’s Good Food Zones:
Join the Los Angeles Food Policy Council's Good Food Economy Working Group over the next month to TAKE ACTION in support of healthy food businesses. We are urging our local city officials to fund and implement the Good Food Zone Policy. The Good Food Zone is a policy adopted at the beginning of March of this year, and its purpose is to support small healthy food businesses to get the tools they need to thrive. This policy is a critical tool to help food businesses recover from the pandemic, especially in low-income communities that lack access to healthy foods. To read more about the Good Food Zone, you can read this policy brief written by the LA Food Policy Council.
We need your help taking this policy to the next level. Since the city council passed the Good Food Zone, a pandemic has ensued. Food businesses across the City have taken a hard economic hit, meaning the communities have cut to needed services. We need to pressure our elected officials to get this program funded and provide an exact timeline implemented to assist the communities impacted the most by the pandemic!
The way we have structured this, we want people to TAKE ACTION on social media or through phone calls (Call-In Google Form Sign Up) and letter writing, one day a week for the next month. Below you will find all information needed to support healthy food businesses. Please access the Tool-Kit that has been prepared by the Los Angeles Food Policy Council's Good Food Economy Working Group.
After today we will send weekly reminders. Please let us know if you have any questions.
4. Andy Fisher: How One Organization Can Shorten Food Bank Lines Across the United States"
Andrew Fisher has worked in the anti-hunger field for 25 years, as the executive director of national and local food groups, and as a researcher, organizer, policy advocate, and coalition builder. He is the author of “Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups.” In his new article, Andy states that “The nation’s largest food charity, Feeding America, has failed to embrace the progressive values needed to make a real impact.” and offers a 10 point plan to change that, focusing on advocacy to change the structures and policies that lead people to be unable to afford food in the USA in the first place. Read the article here.
Likewise, Senator Bernie Sanders has commissioned a report that found that Taxpayers Subsidize Poverty Wages at Walmart, McDonald’s, Other Large Corporations. These corporations, listed at the linked article, employ people at wages so low they must rely on SNAP (food stamps to survive. “At a time when huge corporations like Walmart and McDonald’s are making billions in profits and giving their CEOs tens of millions of dollars a year, they’re relying on corporate welfare from the federal government by paying their workers starvation wages. That is morally obscene. U.S. taxpayers should not be forced to subsidize some of the largest and most profitable corporations in America. It is time for the owners of Walmart, McDonald’s and other large corporations to get off of welfare and pay their workers a living wage,” said Sanders. “…It is long past time to increase the federal minimum wage from a starvation wage of $7.25 an hour to $15, and guarantee health care to all Americans as a human right.”
5. Food Chain Workers Fight For Better Safety During Pandemic
From Food Chain Workers Alliance: “As COVID-19 cases spike and employees brace for holiday crowds, Food 4 Less workers in Los Angeles rallied Tuesday (November 17) to demand reinstatement of Hazard Pay and increased safety protections for workers and customers. Despite a huge increase in sales, Kroger, Food 4 Less’ parent company, eliminated hazard pay and has failed to enforce basic workplace protections to keep workers and customers safe.”
“Workers are concerned that the holiday season and increased COVID infections will put them, their families, and customers at greater risk. Find out more about the #Fight4More / #Lucha4Más campaign at https://foodchainworkers.org/ .”
Grocery workers and union members protest outside a North Long Beach Food 4 Less for increased safety measures and hazard pay. Photo by Brandon Richardson for Long Beach Business Journal.
6. Updates on CalFresh: Rules Made Simpler for Seniors: Court Rules Stolen Benefits Must Be Restored
From a press release by Western Center on Law and Poverty and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles: The California Court of Appeal has ruled that the Department of Social Services must replace CalFresh benefits (formerly "food stamps") when they are electronically stolen from recipients. Attorneys with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles (LAFLA) and Western Center on Law & Poverty represented plaintiffs Esther Ortega and Joe Soza, both of whom are recipients of CalFresh benefits who experienced electronic theft. Hunger Action Los Angeles, an organization working to end hunger and promote healthy eating through advocacy, direct service, and organizing, was also an organizational plaintiff in the case.
“This decision makes it clear that people don’t have to go hungry if through no fault of their own, their CalFresh benefits are stolen,” said Frank Tamborello, Executive Director of Hunger Action LA. “It’s especially critical during this pandemic, with hunger at an all-time high and electronic theft increasing.”
The Court of Appeal decision in Esther Ortega et al., v. Kimberley Johnson, et al. reverses a trial court decision that said the state is not responsible for replacing stolen benefits, and requires reversal of the California Department of Social Services’ previous denial of the plaintiffs’ requests for replacement benefits.
As electronic theft becomes more technologically sophisticated, more low-income Californians are left without essential anti-hunger food benefits, even when they protect their EBT cards and personal information. The result in this case will ensure that CalFresh recipients have their benefits replaced when they are stolen by electronic thieves, and that they don't go hungry when they are victims of high-tech theft.
The point of food assistance is to make sure people can eat. With California and the country both experiencing record levels of hunger, it’s vitally important for government to safeguard necessary food assistance for eligible recipients. This ruling is an important step for Californians who rely on CalFresh benefits to prevent hunger.
CalFresh Will Now Be Simpler for Seniors: The federal government has approved California’s request for waivers in the SNAP program that will eliminate the quarterly reporting normally required for households, if all members of the household are seniors or disabled and have no “earned” income (wages from working rather than pensions, Social Security and similar resources.) This waiver will be implemented as soon as March 1, 2022 and joins other waivers that have made it easier for California seniors and people with disabilities, including up to 1.3 million SSI recipients, to receive food benefits.
7. Save the Month: May 2021 for Hunger Action
“Hunger Action Day”, an event going on 25 years in California bringing together low income people and advocates around the state to the capitol in Sacramento to push for legislative policies that end hunger, became a virtual event “Hunger Action Week” this past May due to the pandemic, and in fact activities were conducted over a period of several weeks (so it’s more like Hunger Action Month now.) Hunger Action Day is conducted by the California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC), consisting of groups from all over the state including Hunger Action LA, LA CAN, California Association of Food Banks, Nourish CA, the San Diego Hunger Coalition, Fresno Metro Ministries, Alameda County Community Food Bank, Community Action Partnership of Orange County and a host of others.
Among the achievements of CHAC and its member groups over the years have been the removal of the racist ban on people with past drug felonies from receiving CalFresh benefits, rules simplifying the CalFresh program, state funds to provide more fruits and vegetables both to food banks and to CalFresh recipients, and the restoration of food benefit access to 1.3 million seniors and people with disabilities in the state who receive SSI.
Thousands of people have participated in CHAC events including Hunger Action Day (Week) (Month), whether they are recipients of public benefits, staff of nonprofit organizations, students, private sector workers or any other concerned residents. You can participate too! Email [email protected] and mark your calendar for May; it will be here quicker than you think!
Hunger Action LA at the Capitol in Sacramento, from the days when group travel was less risky