The lines at California’s food banks keep getting longer. In March, when CalFresh benefits plummeted for 5.3 million Californians, the statewide food banks association warned of a “catastrophic hunger crisis.”
That crisis is now in full force, and high inflation, which has driven food prices up 4.5% in the last year, is not helping.
Most food banks are reporting that they’re serving as many as 50% more people than at the beginning of the year, according to the statewide association.
The Central California Food Bank, which serves Fresno, Madera, Kings, and Kern counties — the most agriculturally productive in the state — said it is serving more than 300,000 people per month compared to around 270,000 before the pandemic. The food bank’s grocery pick-up program is booked out two to three months in advance, when people are meant to have access to it every two to three weeks.
- Kym Dildine, co-chief operating officer of the food bank, to CalMatters on Thursday: “In a community that grows the food for most of the nation, it’s heartbreaking that so many in our community just don’t have access to that thing.”
(You can donate to the Central California Food Bank at this link.)
Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, which used to serve around 150,000 people per month before the pandemic, has been serving more than 270,000 people each month since March.
High Demand in Bay Area, Too
Food banks in the Bay Area also continue to face high demand. The Berkeley Food Pantry is serving more than 3,000 people every month compared to around 1,500 pre-pandemic. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, faced with budget cuts, has had to freeze enrollment in its programs even though (the) need is going up.
“We know our community is still struggling,” said Meg Davidson, the food bank’s policy and advocacy director. “Every week there are more and more people coming to us for the first time and asking to be put on the waitlist for our programs.”
The Legislature considered a number of anti-hunger bills this session, including two that would have provided CalFresh benefits to all Californians regardless of their immigration status. Both measures have been made into two-year bills, meaning they will now be considered in 2024.
Hurtado Authors Anti-Hunger Bill
Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Democrat from Bakersfield and one of the bill authors, told CalMatters that the effort to secure food for all is not over.
- Hurtado: “We share the Food 4 All coalition’s concerns about those left out of the CFAP expansion, particularly the 46 percent of undocumented people under the age of 55 that were sadly not included in this year’s final budget, and we are continuing to work on this issue.’ “
This setback follows a limited win for advocates in securing CalFresh benefits for undocumented immigrants who are 55 and older beginning in 2025 instead of 2027. They’re now calling for this policy to be expanded to all of California’s 2.3 million undocumented, many of whom work on farms, to reduce hunger in the state.
(GV Wire contributed to this report.)
About the Author
Rya Jetha is an intern on the Politics and California Divide teams. She joins CalMatters through the Dow Jones News Fund digital media program. She previously worked at Bay City News as a Dow Jones News Fund business reporting intern. Rya is a recent graduate of Pomona College, where she studied politics and history.
CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.