News Late May-Early June 2022

In this Article:

  1. Baby Formula Shortages: Update:

    The nationwide baby formula shortage has caused anxiety for new moms as they scramble to find formula, or to learn what alternatives are safe. For a general communications toolkit on the formula shortages, please visit the CDPH Infant Formula webpage: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/formula .

    From the LA Times: "Los Angeles County has purchased $750,000 worth of baby formula that it will soon start handing out at food distribution sites and through outreach programs for new mothers, officials said."

    https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-05-28/county-will-soon-start-distributing-baby-formula-at-food-distribution-sites-and-through-outreach-programs2. 

    2. CA Legislature Examines Food Price Hikes

The California State Assembly recently conducted a hearing of the Assembly Select Committee on Food Systems, to explore reasons for the recent unprecedented rise in food costs and what’s behind them from the perspective of many players in the food chain including growers, economists and anti-hunger advocates. You can see the entire hearing here:

https://www.assembly.ca.gov/media/assembly-select-committee-food-systems-20220518/video

While there are nu

 

 

merous take-aways regarding the cause of inflation, the bottom line is we need to help people get the food they need. Some things that were interesting to hear included that inflation would affect California less due to much of its locally grown food (although it would still be bad) and that farm prices are less than 50% of food products, with advertising, real estate and other business factors consuming the lion’s share.  

3. Hunger Action Week: Governor Resists Aid to Seniors, Disabled, Immigrants

Advocates called for the Governor to accelerate the increase in SSI payments from 2024 to 2023, and to fully fund Food4All, which would expand CalFresh to all Californians regardless of immigration status. Both of these funding proposals are in the California Senate's budget proposal, but when the Governor released his updated "May Revise" budget on May 13, he only included the original plans to increase SSI in January 2024, and to fund Food4All only for currently ineligible immigrants aged 55 and older.

For Hunger Action Week, Advocates Press for More Funding :

https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2022-05-09/hunger-food-nutrition/for-hunger-action-week-advocates-press-for-more-funding/a79025-2

 

Monday, May 9, 2022   ---By Suzanne Potter

It's Hunger Action Week, and activists are asking lawmakers to use California's wealth for the people's health - and harness the budget surplus to battle food insecurity.

Advocates hope to phone and zoom with all 120 members of the State Assembly and Senate. Their top priority is the Food 4 All bill (SB 464), which would extend CalFresh food assistance to undocumented people of all ages.

Frank Tamborello is executive director of Hunger Action Los Angeles.

"With the double hit of food-price inflation coupled with an expected reduction in public benefits due to the pandemic emergency being lifted pretty soon," said Tamborello, "it's a critical moment to take up our legislators and tell them that they need to use the state surplus to alleviate the continued suffering."

Pandemic-induced poverty has not abated. Statistics show that one in five Californians still struggle with food insecurity.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's budget proposal would put $50 million toward the CalFood program, which helps food banks to purchase California-grown foods.

Becky Silva, senior policy advocate with the California Association of Food Banks, said she hopes it gets bumped up to $120 million in the May 15 budget revise.

"A lot of our food banks are still saying that they're serving double the number of people," said Silva, "sometimes even triple the number of people pre-pandemic."

Wes Saver, senior policy manager with the GLIDE Center for Social Justice in San Francisco, said he would like the state to implement a planned increase for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients in 2023 instead of 2024.

"Despite the federal and state interventions, food insecurity in California remains with really deep inequities in communities of color," said Saver. "More than a quarter of Black and Latinx families reported food insecurity, which is double the rate of white families."

Todd Cunningham is an organizer with the Skid Row Food and Wellness Collaborative at the Los Angeles Community Action Network. He said this year people actually experiencing homelessness will be on the zoom calls with legislators.

"Folks who may never have had the opportunity to go to Sacramento in the past can now speak about their lived experiences," said Cunningham. "It results in more enlightened and better-informed decision-making about food policy. The people who are living day to day with the issues make the greatest impact."



Disclosure: Hunger Action Los Angeles contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy & Priorities, Hunger/Food/Nutrition, Livable Wages/Working Families, Poverty Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

References:  
SB 464 (Food 4 All) - California Food Assistance Program: eligibility and benefits. the California Legislature 2022
The CalFresh program the California Department of Social Services 2022
Lest We Forget Buffalo
The loss of life due to a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde will be a true test of American democracy, as even vast numbers of responsible gun owners are demanding something be done (if polling numbers are indeed accurate.) The History channel happens to be showing a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, who stood up to some of America's first ultra-rich industrial barons who were controlling Congress with their checkbooks (it's a lot faster now with direct deposit). The gun lobby needs to be put in its place. From our staffer Cathy Snuggs comes a post about the Buffalo shooting, another reminder that racial progress is stuck in the slow lane for now when conspiracies can be stoked by those same modern robber barons, and our elders along with our children are sacrificed on the altar of "2nd Amendment" freedom. 
Unfortunately, The Buffalo, New York massacre (2022), was not the first time I’d
heard of a white teen with an assault rifle targeting Black people. These shooters are
often brought in alive and unharmed to be arraigned, as they should. Yet, conversely, in
2014, Tamir Rice, a 12- year- old boy, was shot dead by the police in the park. He killed
no one. He was “armed” with a toy gun. He was Black.
These tragedies uncover layers of inequality. For instance, why can’t the police
treat all suspects with the fairness and the humanity that these “good old boys” receive?
Why are the police allowed to continuelly play judge and executioner on the streets
when the suspect is Black?
Why is Buffulo so segregrated? And why did the community have to fight so
hard, for a grocery store? The grocery store they were later terrorized in.
“Tops was there because the community advocated for it and fought for it.
…Buffalo is one of the most segregated cities in America, 17th on a list of 113.
The East Side of Buffalo, east of Main Street, is the area that was part of the
redlining maps that was targeted and designated this is not where you would
invest money. If you look at those redlining maps and you look at the grocery
store retail pattern, they match each other. In other words, the disinvestmentsm
that happened in the 1930s, that happened over the decades, are mirrored even
today.”
https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2022/05/how-to-help-feed-buffalo-east-side-tops-shooting.html  

This comunity was already struggling a long history of segregation and
food insecurity as a result of a systematic lack of investment. Yet they
persevered and fought for a basic huileged man with a hate filled hear and a weapon of
war, completely unsettled a community. A mass shooting; domestic terrorismbased
on a theory of fear and hostility. A theory clearly a result of miseducation,
separation and entitlement.
What do we (Black people) think about these massacres? These blatant
injustices?
Well, what do YOU think about these massacres?
This hatred?
This Evil?
This injustice?
What was the color of the blood that flowed from the bodies of the ten Black
people gunned down in cold blood in Buffalo, New York in May of 2022?
Was it the green, purple or gold?
It was red. Just like yours. I feel exactly like you should feel; sad, hurt, angry,
worried, and tired. Because I am human. And I have dreams and goals just like they
did. I have hopes and plans just like you do.
I stay prayed up and keep my head on a swivel. I tap into my natural black girl
magic, my Spidey senses and my women’s intuition in an effort to stay safe from gangs,
racists and even the police.
It is cool to ask me what I think, but it is not necessary. You should already know
because you should be just as upset. Equally disgusted. Equally afraid. Last I checked,
bullets had no names on them.
Let me ask you a question: what are YOU going to do about it? Many Black
leaders (even the ones who only dared to dream) have been killed in this country while
under surveillance of the U.S. Government. It is your turn to stick your neck out and
make change.
To be anti-racist.
To be unapologetic.
To get real.
To make things right.
It is your turn to work within the system to make the changes necessary to help
your fellow man.
To demand reparations.
To disassemble systems that hurt the poor and the hungry.
To monetize your privilege and begin the necessary repairs..
It is time to vote out members of the government who encourage lies and
violence.
Turn off the talking heads on cable 24 hours-a-day who are simply shock jocks
masquerading as journalists. They are making our nation sicker than Covid ever could.
It is time for YOU to stop exploiting my wisdom and my culture and do the work
necessary to make change.
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War, Sanctions, Racism, Computer Glitches, and Hunger April 14

In this Article:

On Inflation, Sanctions, War , and The Local Food Economy

Gas prices are “coming down” they say in Los Angeles---now under $6 per gallon brings a sigh of relief, whereas it was once unimaginable. I remember in 2008 when gas first hit $5 per gallon, and hunger resulted in the Antelope Valley as seniors were unable to afford the drive into Lancaster to get groceries: more than one was found passed out in their trailer home as reported by medical authorities, due to insufficient food. And now gas prices are just one facet of the inflation that’s hit food prices all over the U.S.

Certainly the sanctions on Russia are hurting the world economy, and the invasion of Ukraine has resulted not only in the immediate suffering of refugees from that conflict, but the loss of food exports to countries around the world that rely on Ukrainian grain to feed their own populations.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/markets/russias-war-in-ukraine-threatens-to-hurt-billions-un-warns-as-food-and-energy-prices-soar/ar-AAWcdU5

President Biden has warned of the reality of food shortages :

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/599678-biden-warns-of-food-shortage-from-russias-invasion-into-ukraine/

All of which makes it more important that we develop our own local food sources rather than depend so much on global trade, and California is rich in those. We too are threatened by climate change; witness the ongoing drought situation. But supporting our local farmer not only helps them to survive, it can make healthy food more accessible to low income Californians, thanks to programs like Market Match. The County of Los Angeles will be using some of the pandemic rescue funding to expand programs that make access to fruits and vegetables more affordable, at farmers markets and neighborhood stores, addressing a pre-existing crisis that was made worse by the pandemic. And state legislation like AB 2153 (Arambula) will speed up the day when all CalFresh users in California will be able to get rebates on their benefit cards for purchasing fresh California grown produce whether sold at the farmers market or in the grocery store.

Finally, President Biden signed an extension of $6 billion of funds to WIC to allow the fruit and vegetable benefits in that program to continue at the current amounts. The WIC “ benefit bump”  has resulted in more than triple the amount of fruit and vegetable purchases, a greater variety of produce redeemed by WIC families, and increased fruit and vegetable consumption for young children. And while it’s not limited to locally grown produce, the benefits can be used on fruits and vegetables grown right here in the paradise of California (unless climate change….but that’s for another story.)

 

Politics That Wound and Kill

But while the media focus is on Ukraine and high prices in the U.S., and our own focus in L.A. is on the unhoused and on hunger impacting families, seniors and people with disabilities, further afield war has contributed to some of the most horrific scenes of famine---specifically in Yemen where U.S. supported Saudi Arabia has been battling Houthi rebels, ostensibly supported by Iran as the regional clash between those two giants has wrought misery with hardly any coverage by the U.S. press.

https://www.yahoo.com/news/yemen-hunger-crisis-deepens-war-180729075.html

Political violence doesn’t just mean war. Brutal attacks on people of targeted ethnic groups or people of certain gender orientation is politically motivated. And with that in mind, then the U.S. becomes a country where hunger is occurring due to violence motivated by racism and xenophobia, against Asian-Americans . This article from Bloomberg relates the suffering of seniors in New York who are of Asian descent, but cannot leave their homes to get food due to the very real risk of being beaten or killed. “In New York City alone, hate incidents against Asians surged 361% in 2021 to 129, according to police department data through early December. And that number is likely  underreported because of language and cultural barriers.”

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-02-01/anti-asian-hate-leaves-asian-american-seniors-at-risk-of-hunger

And, politics can cause hunger without resorting to violence. That’s true obviously, of insufficient anti-hunger policy, or deliberate attempts to destroy hunger programs, but it’s also manifest in political stunts, theater that has become all too common, as Governor Greg Abbot in Texas is causing food waste and spoilage by having state troopers perform inspections already done by the federal government, in an effort

https://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/texas-border-inspections-truckers-protest-17073870.php

“The bridge connecting Pharr and Reynosa is the busiest trade crossing in the Rio Grande Valley and handles the majority of the produce that crosses into the U.S. from Mexico, including avocados, broccoli, peppers, strawberries and tomatoes. On Monday, with trucks backed up for miles in Reynosa for the fifth day in a row, some produce importers in Texas said they have waited days for their goods to arrive and already had buyers cancel orders.

“One of our customers canceled the order because we didn’t deliver on time,” said Modesto Guerra, sales manager for Sterling Fresh Inc., which imports broccoli from Central Mexico”

“While many companies cross perishable foods in refrigerated trucks, Guerra said the bottlenecks could lead to equipment failures that cause produce and other products to spoil in the heat. “Those refrigerated units are powered by diesel,” Guerra said. “These trucks are in line and when the diesel runs out they have no way of refueling.”

“Oh can you see their world is crashing

Crashing down around their feet

And angry people in the street,

Are telling them they've had their fill

Of politics that wound and kill”

---Mike Pinder, “Lost in a Lost World”, Moody Blues

 

CalFresh : Snags In the System Translate to Hunger

While the CalFresh program is an excellent system for bringing substantial food purchasing power to the hungry, the past several months have seen glitches and inadequacies that have made it frustrating and left people anxious and without food.

Although improving, the County has a low percentage of success in enrolling people who need benefits in one to three days, many of them homeless people applying for “expedited” CalFresh. If our government processes can’t get food cards to unhoused people in a timely manner, how will we expect them to provide housing, which is a far more complicated process than applying for CalFresh benefits?

In February, farmers markets were required to obtain new EBT machines to process CalFresh cards, from a new state contract. The new machines frequently malfunctioned, could not print out reports, would die or lose connection with the network in the middle of a transaction, needed to be re-booted several times in a day, and other failures, resulting in taking so much time to process a single transaction that many people walked away without making a purchase, or could not use their benefits due to the machine not working at all. While service updates have been made that have mitigated some of the problem, no one has been held accountable for the lost time and the hunger.

Even worse, over the last few weeks the state of California issued new EBT cards to thousands of participants in the program. These new cards were sent to replace cards issued before 2018 that did not have an additional security feature to guard against theft. Many people had their old cards cancelled before the new one had arrived, and when they called the service number to find out what was going on were met with an impenetrable wall of recordings that left them with no way to follow up. 

On the policy side, when the public emergency from the pandemic is declared to be over,  SNAP users all over the United States will face a significant drop (morbidly nicknamed the “Food Cliff” ) in the amount of their monthly benefit. For the details see this website from US Department of Agriculture:

https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/benefit-changes-2021

There is good news to be sure aside from all of this, and better news if the state legislative agenda is passed. And, the Public Health Emergency has been extended so the “cliff” mentioned above won’t happen for a few more months. But we need to avoid the trap of thinking that the SNAP program----CalFresh here---solves everything by itself, without constant monitoring, troubleshooting, and policy improvement.

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