California Food Banks and Statewide Leaders Come Together to Launch Everyone to the Table: New Campaign Calling Californians to Join the Fight to End Hunger
Everyone to the Table launched today, as hunger remains high statewide with 1 in 5 households in California facing food insecurity – a staggering 8 million people (as of March 2021). Those numbers disproportionately impact Black and Latinx households, especially those with children. The road to economic security is long and uncertain, as more families face losing resources that have kept them afloat and will be dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic for years to come.
“Hunger in California is a persistent crisis, but it doesn’t have to be. Everyone to the Table is our call to action,” said Stacia Levenfeld, Chief Executive Officer, California Association of Food Banks. “Food insecurity didn’t spike from its pre-pandemic levels—only because of major investments in the nutrition safety net and the extraordinary work of food banks around the state. Without that round the clock work, we know hunger would have been far greater. As headlines focus on recovery, food banks are facing the very real prospect of a major drop-off in federal funding for emergency food: so we’re sounding the alarm. It took nearly 10 years following the 2008 Great Recession for food insecurity to return to pre-recession levels – and we do not want history to repeat itself. We cannot leave communities without a lifeline. Not now, not ever.”
“Access to food is a basic human right and hunger is a solvable problem,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (AD-15). “Since I arrived in the Assembly, I’ve been proud to stand with food banks and ensure they get the resources they need to do what they do best, feed our communities — and that California is leading the nation by being the first state to enact school meals for all kids. While the hunger crisis is far from over, we must strive for a California better than before since the pre-pandemic ‘normal’ meant 4 million Californians faced hunger. We must keep this issue a top priority, harness our political will and our resources to truly build a hunger-free future for all.”
California’s food banks are central to ending hunger and played a highly visible role in emergency aid as the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became a hunger crisis, serving communities on the frontlines like never before. The California Association of Food Banks’ 41-member food banks distributed 1.1 billion pounds of food in 2020 – that’s almost 917 million meals – and continue to operate at surge capacity, serving exponentially more people compared to pre-pandemic numbers.
“So many people are yearning for a return to pre-pandemic ‘normalcy,’ but in reality, that could mean more of the same for communities we serve in Fresno – persistent and chronic hunger,” said Natalie Caples, Co-CEO, Central California Food Bank. “We see the agony of choices food insecure families make between paying for childcare or putting food on the table, the choices older adults make between food and medication – choices no one should have to make. Although we’re on the frontlines every day, there is still more we need to do to reach every individual who needs our support. Hunger does not relent – and neither will we when it comes to innovating programs to serve our neighbors. With the help of hunger relief advocates and generous supporters, I know that we can co-create a community free from hunger.”
“Remarkably, food insecurity in California remained about the same from 2019 – 2020 as federal and state governments invested in public benefits and community organizations responded to support families and children in their greatest time of need. But that doesn’t give the full story for low-income communities of color who have been hit hard by the pandemic, have struggled to cover basic expenses, and have disproportionately experienced hunger in California,” said Kristin Schumacher, Senior Policy Analyst at California Budget & Policy Center. “California leaders must continue to invest in food support so no child or family ever goes hungry – global crisis or not.”
Food banks are integral to communities, serving diverse geographical areas, ranging from rural food banks that work with local partners to serve remote, isolated communities to large urban food banks with hundreds of partners that serve many neighborhoods. Food banks made massive operational changes during the pandemic to meet the moment. With social distancing and the increase in demand for emergency food, costs surged and models shifted: drive-through and home delivery distributions, typically rare, we’re enacted overnight and became core to food banks’ models. About 70 percent of CAFB member food banks expect that their programming and operations will remain changed in some way beyond the pandemic.
“For the past 18 months we’ve worked relentlessly to meet the incredible need for emergency food in the San Diego community, and we won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Demand remains more than double what it was prior to the pandemic and we know that it will take so many Californians years to recover from the financial impacts of this crisis,” said Vanessa Ruiz, Vice President of Operations at Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank. “Each and every member of our staff plays a critical role in San Diego’s nutrition safety net and in making sure every San Diegan has access to the food they need. I’m proud to serve my community alongside our dedicated teammates and to be a part of the Everyone to the Table campaign to bring awareness to the amazing work of food banks throughout our state.”
• Lauren Lathan Reid, California Association of Food Banks, 415-200-9468 or [email protected]
SOURCE California Association of Food Banks