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Jun 19 2020 | 

Author: Becky | 

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a hunger crisis like we have never seen before. The most recent data shows that food insecurity in California has risen 2.4 times the pre-pandemic levels, to 21.8%. This crisis has also further revealed and deepened the racial disparities in hunger that already existed. Nationally, surveys show that among households with children, 24% of households with a white respondent were food insecure during April or May, while 41% of households with a black respondent, and 36% of those with a Hispanic respondent were food insecure.

“We’ve had to quickly respond to an unprecedented and dramatic increase in need -- in April, we distributed 45% more food than in February and our clients have increased by 100,000 this month. Even if shelter-in-place ends, this economic crisis will continue for much longer.” – Second Harvest of Silicon Valley

Moreover, fully 8.6% of Californians – nearly one in 10 – report relying on food banks. That’s 3.5 million Californians. By now the reports, videos, and photos of food banks around our state seeing record demand is well documented. According to data from Feeding America, California’s food banks are experiencing a 73% increase in demand. California Department of Social Services’ data shows similarly shocking trends – for five consecutive weeks in March and April, weekly applications for SNAP were twice as high as in February.

“We continue to see an increase of families at our distribution sites, most of our distributions are running out of food at least 30 minutes early and we have been increasing the amount of food for the past two months.” – Imperial Valley Food Bank

In this moment of massive unemployment, economic instability, exacerbated racial inequities, and resulting hunger – we need the Senate and the President to follow the leadership of the House in H.R. 6600 the Heroes Act, and make critical investments in the food safety net. These and other provisions would provide much needed assistance to families who have lost jobs and face hardships and health challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly among disproportionately impacted communities of color. 

Strengthen SNAP, that provides nine meals for every one by the charitable sector:

  • Improve SNAP benefit adequacy for all households by increasing the maximum benefit by 15% for the duration of the economic downturn.
  • Increase the SNAP minimum benefit from $16 to $30 to help people impacted by COVID-19, particularly older adults are more likely to receive the minimum benefit.
  • Suspend all SNAP time limits and rules changes that would cut SNAP eligibility and benefits.

 

Extend food benefits for children during the summer:

  • Extend the Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) program at least through the summer to ensure families have enough resources to buy food and provide much-needed economic stimulus. 

 

Support the emergency food system:

  • Increase TEFAP funding by $500 million to sustain food banks’ ability to meet the increased need for food as well as for enhanced storage and distribution costs.
  • Invest $543 million in the cold storage and transportation capacity of our charitable food system to help meet the unprecedented demand for food.

 

Each and every day food bank staff and volunteers work on the frontlines of this pandemic providing anyone in need with the most fundamental resource: food. Keeping California healthy and well-fed is critical to protecting public health and rebuilding our economy - and we cannot do that without a robust SNAP program.