Hunger is high in California.
1 in 5 households in California face food insecurity on a daily basis – a staggering 8 million people. While down from the high watermark of the early COVID-19 pandemic when a full fourth of our state was experiencing food insecurity, hunger rates remain above the pre-pandemic rate of 1 in 8.
Access to food is a basic human right.
We need everyone to the table to prevent hunger from rising during the fragile recovery, and as we work towards to a hunger-free future for all Californians.
The face of hunger represents the diversity of California.
It impacts children, students, and older adults, veterans, single parents, and those living with disabilities. It affects our unemployed, underemployed, and working families.
Hunger is a racial justice issue.
As with most issues at the intersection of economics and public health, there is a disproportionately high level of food insecurity experienced among Black, Latinx, and Indigenous households and homes with children.
As of September 2021, almost a third of Black Californians and more than a third of Latinx families are food insecure. We must recognize, address, and dismantle the systems of discrimination and cycles of poverty that create hunger in the first place.
The economic picture lays out a long and uncertain road to recovery.
More families face a looming hunger cliff and may be dealing with the financial impacts of the pandemic for years to come.
Despite a recent hiring surge, as of September 2021, California has the second highest unemployment rate in the country with 7.5% of our resident out of work, and with agriculture-producing region rates lingering in the double-digits.
On September 4, 2021, 2.2 million Californians lost unemployment benefits, and the nearly one million people who are behind on rent, just lost protections against eviction.
Hunger responds to public and private action.
Food insecurity in California was largely prevented during the pandemic, because of major investments in public benefits and the nutrition safety net – and the extraordinary work of food banks across the state. Without that vast expansion in aid, and the incredible, round-the-clock work of our state’s food banks hunger would have been far greater.
Continued aid and community support are critical.
It took nearly 10 years following the 2008 Great Recession for food insecurity to return to pre-recession levels – and we do not want that protracted crisis to repeat itself.
The pandemic thrust California’s food banks into the spotlight.
What started as a health crisis quickly became a hunger crisis – 365 days a year.
Able to respond more quickly than the government, the California Association of Food Banks’ (CAFB) 41 member food banks – working in concert with more than 5,000 food distribution partners – played a highly visible role in emergency aid, serving as community lifelines on the frontlines like never before.
The CAFB network responded to the unprecedented demand for food.
Distributing 1.1 billion pounds of food in 2020– that’s about 917 million meals.
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 banking is a complex logistical effort that requires efficiencies at every point along the way – from obtaining donated food to implementing safe handling and storage practices to selecting local charities to help distribute the food.
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, 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.
CAFB’s 41 member food banks continue to operate at surge capacity.
Many food banks report serving twice the number of people as they did prior to the pandemic. Food banks are facing the very real prospect of a nearly 50 percent drop-off in federal funding for emergency food, leaving them without a primary source of food while demand remains extremely elevated.
501(c)3 nonprofit food banks rely on generous community support.
Hands-on volunteers and monetary donations – to ensure food is accessible to every Californian, especially as food insecurity remains dangerously high.
To learn more about the work of the California Association of Food Banks and its 41 member food banks, visit: cafoodbanks.org
For more food bank facts, visit: https://www.cafoodbanks.org/food-bank-facts/