Food insecurity in our area is one of our top concerns right next to homelessness. The pandemic brought both these issues to the forefront of our societal lens when people lost their jobs and became at risk for both hunger and losing their homes.
It’s because of this that we used our resources and joined with other organizations to help our community in more focused ways since the Camp Fire. Thanks to our local legislators, Senator Jim Nielsen and Assemblyman James Gallagher, we received new State funding that helped bolster our food distribution efforts. We also promoted news of rent relief programs to keep people in their homes while experiencing financial hardship. We even had brave volunteers answer the call to help make our VITA services happen while abiding by COVID-19 guidelines.
In recent news, our California legislature has passed the new budget that includes major aid to bolster our food banks and other hunger fighting services. We were in the pandemic for over a year, and though things are seeming to return to normal, we will be adjusting and healing for a little while longer. The recently passed budget reflects those efforts.
2021-2022 California Food Budget
A recent press release from the California Association of Food Banks covered the latest statistics and summarized what the budget will help with.
The simple fact is that the hunger crisis is far from over: right now, 2,690,000 adults and 806,000 children report experiencing the most critical form of hunger, This is nearly 11% of Californians, nearly triple the pre-pandemic rate. Food banks and the millions of Californians we serve need continued support.
In addition to providing ongoing support to our state’s food banks, the Budget makes historic investments in school meals for all, supplemental security income (SSI), and other programs that address causes of hunger.
Here is a partial summary of anti-hunger investments in the 2021 Budget Act:
- Emergency food$110M one-time for food banks COVID-19 response – (Sen. Laird & Asm. Wicks) + $8M for food banks to purchase California produce food
- Food bank capacity(Asm. Daly) & climate resilience (Sen. Newman & Villapudua) – $182M one-time to ensure food banks can meet the need and remain operational during disasters
- Healthy food donation tax credit– 5-year extension for donations of food to food banks (Sen. Eggman & Asm. Levine)
- School meals for all (Sen. Skinner, Asm. McCarty & Luz Rivas)
- First-in-the-nation legislation ensures access to free school breakfast and lunch for all students, support healthy California grown foods, and invest in school nutrition workforce and kitchens
- Prevent the lifetime loss of food aid in the CalFresh Expansion Transitional Nutrition Benefit hold harmless program
- Expansion of the California Food Assistance Program to advance food for all (Sen. Hurtado)
- Many CalFresh investments, including:
- Simplified application for seniors and telephonic access (Sen. Wiener)
- Equitable Consumer Compensation so low-income Californians are adequately compensated for participating in the user-centered design process creating the new CalFresh web portal (Asm. Calderon)
- Support for counties to continue the CalFresh expansion to higher education students and implement CalFresh program simplifications
- College student support, including:
- Provides basic needs centers at community colleges, as well as support for basic needs at California State Universities – $30M ongoing College students
- Overhaul of the financial aid awards to advance debt-free community colleges and California State University access for low-income students
- Affordable student housing to fight student homelessness – $2 billion
- Advance health equity through health for all older adults, eliminating the asset test penalizing “senior savings,” and other improvements in Medi-Cal
- More than $12 billion to fight homelessness and build affordable housing
- And many more wins that eliminate fines, reduce debt, and improve reentry that have proven to trap low-income families in food insecurity
A full summary of the budget agreement is available here, and many of these investments will be passed and implemented through subsequent trailer bill legislation.
How it Affects Us
Some pieces of this budget that are particular wins for our North State include the aid to CalFresh and college students. Chico State has the Wildcat Food Pantry and CAA partners with the Center for Health Communitieswhich helps students get signed up for CalFresh.
Another win is the increase in the California Food Assistance Program, which is one program that supports the food distribution efforts of our North State Food Bank. Throughout the year we have three food distribution efforts: our Tailgate, TEFAP, and Emergency Food Distribution events. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for events, or get the full calendars on our website.
We have four main programs to help the North State move up out of poverty and break cycles of homelessness. They have held strong and provided much relief to our community in these times of need. We are excited to put these new resources to good use. If you would like to personally help aid our efforts, please consider donating using the links below.
Since 1967, the Community Action Agency of Butte County has been serving the needs of the region in alignment with the charter of the National Community Action Agencies overarching goal: To alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty by whatever means necessary in your community. As Butte County CAA, we provide hope to people struggling with poverty to become more self-sustaining by meeting tangible needs in the areas of energy savings, affordable food, and housing. Connect with us to find out how you can get involved.