Everyone expected 2024 to be a critical year, due to the U.S. presidential elections and the continuing wobbling of the economy as the world gets back to some kind of “normal” after COVID (which hasn’t stopped making people sick by the way.) Our country and the state of California continue to face the fallout of the pandemic and the food price inflation of the past two years. The destructive wars in Gaza, Ukriane, in Sudan, and South Sudan among other places have only exacerbated tensions further and made the dream of ending hunger in the world an even more distant reality.
The Governor announced his proposed budget for California on January 17, under the shadow of a deficit that is anywhere from $38 billion to $58 billion depending on who you ask. Remarkably most human services funding was left unscathed---no cuts, but no increases either---with some glaring exceptions. His budget is poised to deal a death blow to the Market Match program, which has been built up for the last 14 years into a remarkable hunger- and inflation-fighting program as well as a revenue source for our family farms in the state, which provide the lion’s share of the country’s fruits and vegetables.
Of the $35 million allocated for 2025 through 2027 for the California Nutrition Incentive Program (CNIP), which funds Market Match, he proposed axing $33.2 million leaving not even enough for a symbolic gesture. You can learn more about Market Match at https://marketmatch.org or on the Market Match section on this very website. People who care about fighting hunger need to move fast. While it’s true that the final budget is negotiated in May and June between the Governor and the legislature, our Assemblymembers and Senators are being bombarded with pleas from competing priorities.
It should be noted that some other programs that help farmers, especially beginning farmers and healthy food hubs for cities, will be slashed as well.
The Governor is also cutting some of the supportive services in the CalWORKs program, including programs that ensure families can maintain housing and find employment for people with very difficult challenges to getting a job:
Meanwhile in Gaza starvation is the cruelest weapon that continues to be used in spite of international pressure on the Israeli government to let sufficient food in to bombarded civilians, 25,000 of whom have been killed up to this point but with many thousands more at risk of famine.
Sadly there are other places where hunger is used to push non-combatants to the brink of death, for example the Sudan:
A bipartisan Child Tax Credit proposal has been released in the U.S. Senate. This program helped millions during the pandemic but ended in 2021. It represents one of the most efficient means ever undertaken to get funds to low income families at a minimum of bureaucratic hurdles. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that “In the first year, the expansion would lift as many as 400,000 children above the poverty line. 3 million more children would be made less poor as their incomes rise closer to the poverty line.”
The Child Tax Credit can lift millions out of poverty, but it has some flaws---major flaws according to Global Womens’ Strike, including that it leaves out the poorest people and it’s paid annually not monthly---allowing debt to accumulate rather than helping families stay out of debt:
Poor Peoples Campaign
The Poor Peoples Campaign on March 2, in 30 states, will activate thousands of people in 30 states to march in their state capitol cities to demand just solutions to a comprehensive range of policies impacting poor people, including policies on housing, health care, income support, food, justice and other issues. Find out more here----the LA Contingent is organizing now!
Why Is It So hard To End Hunger?
In most cases hunger is an issue of the will. People in war torn countries aren’t eating because food is being blocked by their enemies. In the U.S., elected officials don’t feel enough pressure to retain funding for anti-hunger programs compared to pressure they feel from wealthy donors to maintain breaks and perks for the wealthy.
You can even get in trouble for feeding unhoused people out of your own pocket:Houston has a $500 fine for feeding the homeless. But there’s hope: recently in a case brought up under these charges, they couldn’t find enough jurors willing to issue the fine in case the defendant was found guilty:
Let’s be like those jurors and reject the criminalization of poor people, and of helping the poor.