News Update Aug 22nd, 2016

To All Those Interested in Food and Justice...

A (usually) weekly update on food issues, promoting access to sufficient, affordable, healthy food—with a focus on campaigns you can become active in!

August 22nd, 2016: Current News and Recent Articles on Hunger

August 13, 2016: Current News and Recent Articles on Hunger

1. California Legislative Update : Anti Hunger Policies Move Forward

This year at the state level Hunger Action LA and its allies have fought for several policies affecting groups of people specifically---and now is a critical time for three measures that will help seniors, people with disabilities, students, and immigrants:

SSI/SSP: About 1.3 million senior or disabled Californians struggle to survive on this monthly benefit (Supplemental Security Income and its State Supplemental Payment), which has eroded in value by nearly $80 per month over the last several years. This year, the Governor did include a $4 per month increase in the benefit in the state budget---not enough by any standards. A separate piece of legislation, AB 1584 offered by Assembly member Cheryl Brown, would have offered a higher increase. The bill has been amended though and no longer calls for a $20 monthly increase: more importantly, for the long term, it does call for the permanent restoration of the annual Cost of Living Allowance.

If this bill passes, SSI recipients can finally get relief from the cuts at the state level that have forced them to live on smaller and smaller amounts of money (the current grant is only $889 a month, with no eligibility for CalFresh food assistance.)

AB 1584 won a dramatic victory this past Thursday when it passed the Senate Appropriations Committee. It will next go to a full vote in the Senate

In the next few days, we’ll be sending an alert for you to call your Senator to urge passage of AB 1584.

Immigrants: In 1996, Congress passed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA), commonly known as federal “welfare reform.” Welfare reform restricted SNAP eligibility for immigrants who entered the United States after August 22, 1996.
In order to adapt to this change, California created the California Food Assistance Program for Immigrants (CFAP) in 1997 and, today it provides many immigrant Californians access to nutritional assistance. However, certain immigrant Californians who work and pay taxes are still ineligible for both SNAP and CFAP. This includes immigrants present under immigration categories that did not exist in 1997, such as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). It also excludes longtime residents who are applying for legal permanent residence under certain programs.

AB 1770 would strengthen the CalFresh program by removing disparities in how CalFresh/CFAP treats different categories of immigrant individuals who are lawfully present in the U.S. By doing so, it will reduce hunger among those newly eligible, and will also reduce confusion and administrative error due to current rules which make some lawfully present immigrants eligible for CalFresh while others aren’t.

AB 1770 also passed the Senate Appropriations Committee and will be coming to a floor vote in the Senate soon.

Students: AB 1747 will address the growing issue of hunger on our college campuses. It will require schools to have places to eat to accommodate homeless students (also a growing population) using CalFresh cards to access prepared meals. It will also provide assistance for food pantries on said campuses. It will be coming to a floor vote soon having also passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Visit our website soon for an update on these three bills!

2. Governor Signs State Budget: Good News and Mediocre News

The Governor signed the state budget for 2016-2017 this past June. As with most budgets it’s a mixed bag. For Hunger Action LA, whose members have advocated all year on numerous issues, there was clear victory on at least two points. First, the antiquated and downright racist “Maximum Family Grant” rule in CalWORKs was repealed, further testimony to the indomitable spirit of the advocates and more so their champion Senator Holly Mitchell.

Secondly, the state budget includes $5 million for nutrition incentive programs, which is intended to be used to draw down the equivalent amount of federal fund and give the biggest boost yet to the Market Match program, helping thousands of Californians access healthier food more affordably (the program gives bonus coupons for fresh farm grown fruits and vegetables) and supporting California farmers, many struggling through the drought.

However, the main thrust of anti-hunger advocacy, a raise for the state’s 1.5 million SSI/SSP recipients, resulted in just about the most meager possible increase of $4 per month. Granted this is a tremendous step for a governor who has up until now never approved ANY increase in the grant, for cost of living, since taking office, resulting in a $77/per month overall erosion of the benefit available to seniors and people with disabilities.

So although this budget is making an attempt at relieving some of the burdens many community members currently face, the $4 per month increase in SSI is a step, but a very, very small one that we’re hoping is just a down payment in repairing the program that provides 1.5 million senior and disabled residents with the only resources they have for housing, food, transportation and out of pocket medical costs.

Cynde Soto, from CALIF states that “People with disabilities and seniors are living in abject poverty in the community or being forced into institutions because they are unable to pay for rent, utilities, and food. Instead of giving a hand up out of poverty, our most vulnerable residents are being left behind by the Governor's ‘rainy day fund’. It's already pouring on our community and we need a life raft!”

The global picture on the budget reveals some tired old news : the prioritization of prison expansion---the state equivalent of the federal government’s military spending addiction---prevailed once again. Karen Kandamby of California Partnership in that coalition’s joint statement on the budget says, “The continued expansion of prisons and jails is a huge disappointment. The money we spend jailing poor people could go a long way towards housing, education, and mental health treatment. California cannot continue to treat our endemic social problems with mass incarceration.”

Hunger Action LA members honed their acting skills in a piece of street theater on June 17, outside the Governor’s office in downtown LA. CALIF put together a video explaining the SSI/CalFresh conundrum and featuring a few of the HALA members who were involved in the action:

SSI Advocacy and Street Theater June 2016
Feel free to join in the fun next time!

3. Everytable—A Healthy Food Restaurant for Everyone— Is Now Open!           

Everytable , an innovative new program that brings healthy balanced entrees to the community at Mickey-D’s prices, has opened the doors to its very first location in South LA (1101 West 23rd Street)

Everytable makes fresh, healthy food accessible to everyone by pricing meals affordably according to the neighborhoods they serve. Through grab-and-go locations, the brand sells nutritious food, fast, for less.

For those living in food deserts, choosing to eat well is often unrealistic. For people in more affluent neighborhoods, overpaying for healthy meals on-the-go is reality. Everytable is democratizing healthy, convenient meals by implementing variable pricing based on the neighborhoods it will serve. So while prices differ from location-to-location for the same meals, the meals are always affordable for the local community.

Everytable serves a rotating, seasonal menu inspired by local flavors and cuisines - salads, grain bowls, entrees, soups, and kids’ items, including gluten-free and vegetarian options.

Everytable is co-founded by Groceryships Founder and Executive Director Sam Polk and Director of Operations David Foster. Groceryships is a local nonprofit working at the intersection of poverty and obesity.       

(Editor’s note: I tried some of the Everytable meals at a sampling and press conference held by the group….and they are delicious! They are at affordable prices and located in a neighborhood where working families need healthy options when they don’t have time to cook. It’s a great solution to a pervasive problem–in spite of public assistance programs, all people inevitably have to spend more of their own money on food, and Everytable makes balanced healthy meals available at fast-food prices. Please check it out!—Frank Tamborello)

4. Two Contrasting Tales of Rescuing Food that Would Otherwise be Wasted

In spite of what would be considered universal revulsion at 40% of our landfills consisting of wasted food while people go hungry, there are varying reactions if you should actually try to salvage food and give it to people who need it.

In one case, the authorities were convinced it was a great idea:
“Waste Not OC” is highlighted in this LA Times article. It’s an initiative under which the very Health Department that grades Orange County’s stores and restaurants also advises those places that they can, under the Good Samaritan act, legally donate perishable food without liability, to food pantries, shelters, group homes and other locations, as well as instructing them how to donate food safely.

Waste Not OC

In another case…..

The Azusa school district apparently hasn’t heard of the Good Samaritan Act. They fired a coach who collected fruit uneaten by many of the students and re-distributed it to students who wanted it. In all fairness to the district, the US Department of Agriculture’s own rules make it complicated to redistribute school food, and there are disagreements over what the details are.

School Coach Fired for Redistributing Fruit

5. More Obesity Worldwide than Ever:  Food Industry Responds, Sort Of

The World Health Organization reports recently that:

  • In 2014, more than 1.9 billion adults, 18 years and older, were overweight. Of these over 600 million were obese.
  • Overall, about 13% of the world’s adult population (11% of men and 15% of women) were obese in 2014.
  • In 2014, 39% of adults aged 18 years and over (38% of men and 40% of women) were overweight.
  • The worldwide prevalence of obesity more than doubled between 1980 and 2014

In addition to recommendations for individuals, the report adds that:

The food industry can play a significant role in promoting healthy diets by:

  • reducing the fat, sugar and salt content of processed foods;
  • ensuring that healthy and nutritious choices are available and affordable to all consumers;
  • practicing responsible marketing especially those aimed at children and teenagers;
  • ensuring the availability of healthy food choices and supporting regular physical activity practice in the workplace

World Health Organization Reports Highest Rates of Obesity, Overweight, and Diabetes

World Health Organization Fact Sheet on Diabetes, Obesity

In light of these findings it’s a shame that the proposal for a 2 cent per ounce tax on soda has died in the California legislature. No one is saying that the diabetes epidemic can entirely be blamed on soda, but soda is cheap, ubiquitous and definitely does contribute to obesity and diabetes. With such huge profits it’s not unreasonable to ask the industry to pay back some funds if for no other reason than keeping their customers alive:

Soda Tax Proposal Withdrawn in CA State Legislature

Big Food Company To Warn People: Don’t Eat Too Much Of Our Pasta Sauce: From Huffington Post: “Mars Food plans to tell customers to eat some of its Dolmio pasta sauces and macaroni cheese only once a week to maintain a balanced diet because of the products’ high levels of salt, sugar or fat.The scheme is part of a larger initiative by the privately owned U.S. food company to encourage healthier eating at a time when large food multinationals, or Big Food, are coming under increasing pressure from public health advocates and regulators struggling to fight a growing obesity epidemic. The plan, however, does not extend to Mars’ chocolate or sweets businesses, whose brands include M&M’s, Snickers and Starburst”

Mars Tells Customers To Just Eat Macaroni Once a Week

6. If You’re Hospitalized More, You Are Probably Hungrier

A small study has revealed that people with higher rates of hospitalization either don't have regular access to healthy food or are at risk of not having enough food at home.

In California this would likely include most of the population receiving SSI, who struggle on $889 per month to cover all expenses and aren’t allowed to receive CalFresh.

People in the Hospital More Suffer More Hunger at Home

7. LA County Passes Urban Agriculture Policy

The LA County Board of Supervisors in recent months unanimously passed the final ordinance and program details of the Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Program. With this new program, property owners can lease their land to farm or community garden operators in order to receive a reduction on property taxes. The principle objective behind the program, enabled by Assembly Bill 551 passed in 2014, is to increase urban access to local fresh fruits and vegetables while revitalizing vacant lots that might otherwise be blighted.

“The Urban Agriculture Incentive Zone Program has the ability to be a significant tool in addressing the alarming issues of insufficient food access and blight that permeate too many of our communities,” said Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The Los Angeles Food Policy Council is assisting in tracking potential sites across the County. If you live near or pass by a vacant lot, please send the cross streets to [email protected] to determine eligibility.

Many thanks to the Urban Ag Working Group who advocated steadfastly for the County’s adoption of the plan, after the state originally created the policy in 2014.

If you are interested in being part of the Urban Ag Working Group, contact Francesca at [email protected]

Details from LA Sentinel on the policy:
County Moves Forward with Urban Ag Incentive Zones

8. LGBT Hunger: An Issue Many Are Not Aware Of

Re-pasted from NY Times Blog

Link to Williams Institute study cited in article:

A Hunger Crisis in the L.G.B.T. Community By Roni Caryn Rabin

July 18, 2016 11:05 am 21 : Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans are more visible than ever before. Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, and the talk show host Ellen DeGeneres are gay. Kate Brown of Oregon is the first openly bisexual governor. The Olympic gold medalist and transgender woman Caitlyn Jenner has a reality show.

But the affluence of such prominent figures masks a bleak reality: Many people in the L.G.B.T. community go hungry.

A new report on hunger found that more than one in four L.B.G.T. adults could not afford to feed themselves or their families at least once in the past year. By comparison, only one in six heterosexual adults reported a similar crisis.
Certain subgroups in the L.G.B.T. community are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity, including minorities, women, the unmarried, bisexuals, those without college degrees, younger people and those who have children in the home. (It is believed that transgender people also go hungry, but data on this group is lacking.) Experts say L.G.B.T. teenagers, who are not covered in this report, are also at risk of going without food, especially if they are homeless.

Behind the statistics are people like Sofia Torres, a lesbian who at 71 is unemployed and receives only $35 a week in food stamps after recent cuts. Or William Gonzalez, a 50-year-old gay man from Queens who survived a hate crime and lives on a government disability check, and relies on a local food pantry called the River Fund for groceries. Or Tanya Asapansa-Johnson Walker, a 53-year-old transgender woman who has for years relied on food pantries because finding a job is so difficult.

“As soon as they realize you’re trans, you see their face changes; everything stops right there,” Ms. Walker said.

Ms. Torres worked her whole life in construction, carpentry and security jobs, but she never married or had children, so her support system is thin. Though she has friends, she said, “Friends come and go.”

The new report, “Food Insecurity and SNAP Participation in the LGBT Community ,” published Monday, uses data from four major national surveys that, when combined, represent the lives and challenges of nearly 20,000 people in the L.G.B.T. community.

“This is eye-opening for many people, and it’s even eye-opening for many in the anti-hunger world, who haven’t typically worked with the L.G.B.T. community,” said Adam P. Romero, a scholar of law with the Williams Institute at U.C.L.A. School of Law who is one of the authors of the new study. “I’ve had a number of people from different anti-hunger organizations say, ‘Wow, I had no idea that hunger was such an issue in the L.B.G.T. community.’”
Experts say there are many reasons L.B.G.T. people face more economic challenges than their straight counterparts. A 2013 report on poverty found that lesbians, gays and bisexuals may face employment discrimination and higher rates of being uninsured. For some, a lack of family support may also play a role. A lack of access to the financial benefits of marriage has also affected the economic status of gays and lesbians, although that should change now that marriage is legal for all.

The findings will also surprise many within the community itself, said Lorri L. Jean, the chief executive of the Los Angeles LGBT Center .

“Our own community is as ignorant of these statistics as the straight world,” she said.


The surveys include the Gallup Daily Tracking Survey of Adults, the National Survey of Family Growth, the American Community Survey of Cohabiting Couples and the National Health Interview Survey of 2014. (The SNAP program in the report’s title refers to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.) ConAgra Foods provided some funding for the report.

Among L.G.B.T. people, women were more likely to be hungry than men; 31 percent of women and 22 percent of men reported not having enough money for food in the past year.

The perception that the L.G.B.T. community is affluent, educated and high-achieving has been perpetuated by Hollywood characters like the lawyer Will Truman on the sitcom “Will & Grace,” and reinforced by a cascade of high-profile celebrities, businesspeople and athletes.

Because gay and lesbian couples have historically been less likely to have children, there also is a perception that such couples have more disposable income than people with families. Though the data is fairly sparse, most studies actually show gay men earn less on average than other men.

The belief that most L.G.B.T. people are affluent is “one of the most persistent and, frankly, pernicious myths about the L.G.B.T. community,” said Gary J. Gates, who wrote the first report on food insecurity in the L.G.B.T. community and is an author on the new report as well. “It emerged in part from the community itself, as part of a strategy of marketing the population as an attractive consumer market.”

While the strategy of promoting “pink” money and the purchasing power of the L.G.B.T. community “got a lot of companies on board and increased their understanding of L.G.B.T. issues,” he said, it also hid the economic problems faced by vulnerable members of the community.

“It’s not like on TV, where all the gay people are fabulous and live in nice apartments in Manhattan and are white,” said Cathy Bowman, L.G.B.T. and HIV project director at Brooklyn Legal Services

Many anti-hunger organizers are now starting to think about how they can make their food services more welcoming to L.G.B.T. people, and how to address the issue from a policy perspective, said Abby Leibman, the president and chief executive of Mazon, a national anti-hunger advocacy group.

Ms. Jean, of the Los Angeles L.G.B.T. center, said she planned to use the new report to raise awareness and “raise a ruckus,” and press the local food bank operation to restore the food pantry that used to be at her center.

“I have had government funders over the years say to me things like, ‘Yeah, but you people don’t need it,’” Ms. Jean said. “There’s this myth in our society that gay people are rich, but it’s not the truth. We have this huge swath of people who make less than their straight counterparts, and most people, even in our own community, do not know that.”

9. NYT Opinion: End of the Myth of the Welfare Queen

For a long time, the state of California has denied any additional welfare (CalWORKs) assistance to families who have additional children while receiving aid. This was based not on any proven research but on an ugly and hateful stereotype that low income women receiving cash aid were deliberately having extra children just to get a few extra dollars per month. This myth is very persistent: in fact, many people who think this probably don’t realize that California for over two decades has denied extra assistance to families who have children while they are already receiving aid.

The rules stated that you could actually receive extra money but only if you proved that the child was conceived because of rape, incest or failed birth control---which you had to prove to the county welfare office was the case….

This ban was called the “Maximum Family Grant” rule and after years of advocacy led by Senator Holly Mitchell, it has been repealed.

From the NY Times:

"It took 22 years, but CA finally acknowledged last month that the ban was cruel and ineffective. This attempt at social engineering was based on popular suspicion, not proven research, as well as on racist stereotyping."
“Repeal means …. the end of humiliating state inquiries — which forced women to prove they were entitled to extra aid because a child had been conceived because of rape, incest or failed birth control”.

#RepealMFG victory celebrated by @NYTOpinion in this obituary of Welfare Queen Myth

(Thanks to Jessica Bartholow for the hashtag and link)

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