> October 2012Hunger in the News The CalFresh Challenge and 30 Ways in 30 Days September was Hunger Action Month; a time to build awareness about

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October 2012

Hunger in the News

The CalFresh Challenge and 30 Ways in 30 Days

September was Hunger Action Month; a time to build awareness about food insecurity in our community while taking steps to eliminate the problem. For the week of September 9th through September 15th awareness was raised in the form of walking in the shoes of a person whose only source of food and drink is from CalFresh, the program formerly known as Food Stamps.

For one week two staff members at Food for People and three reporters from the Eureka Times Standard newspaper took the CalFresh Challenge and lived on a food budget of $34.30 for the week, or $4.90 per day.

All participants blogged about the experience on a special online forum, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. While there were only a few instances of participants being unable to address hunger pains (nothing affordable in an airport), three themes remained consistent; the inability to afford enough produce, a lack of variety, and the realization of how much time is spent planning for a small food budget.

Poverty creates additional risk factors for food related health problems, like obesity and type II diabetes. The inability to afford nutritious food, limited transportation options, living in communities that are under served by retailers who offer fresh produce, fewer opportunities for exercise, and low or no access to healthcare are a few of the risk factors that accompany living near the poverty line. Time is another factor that impacts food choice, or lack thereof. I completed my shopping for the entire week in twenty minutes, in between work and picking up my toddler. With the right amount of planning, aka time, my week could have offered more variety. But I simply did not have the time and neither do millions of low-income Americans who often juggle multiple jobs with familial responsibilities.

CalFresh is not intended to be the sole source of food for program participants; the hope is that it helps households to make ends meet and puts more healthy food like fruits and vegetables on the table. CalFresh can be used at all seven Humboldt County farmer’s markets (in Garberville, Fortuna, Eureka, Arcata, and McKinleyville) and can be used to purchase food-producing seeds and plant starts. And many people are using it in that way. But I can tell you from my experience as a CalFresh application assistor at Food for People that CalFresh is the only regular source of food for many others. There are people whose housing costs alone take up 80% or more of their monthly income.

Recent data from the Census Bureau reveals that 1 in 6 adults and 1 in 4 children in California lived in poverty in 2011. Without CalFresh, this number would have been much higher. Currently 3.9 million Californians receive CalFresh, and more than half of them are children. We did not undertake this Challenge to prove that living on such a limited budget can or can’t be done; we did it to raise awareness. Many people simply do not know how prevalent hunger is in their own community or how much a program like CalFresh is keeping that hunger at bay for so many around them.

Free Produce On the Road

In the mid 1990’s a new term was born to describe populated urban areas with little or no retail food distribution: “food deserts”. In the next two decades the term grew in scope to include rural, urban, and low-income pockets within larger communities that all share three common traits: a high-proportion of low-income residents, higher incidences of diet related illness, and little or no access to healthy, affordable foods (or food at all).

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food deserts as any census tract with a poverty rate of at least 20%, or median family income that does not exceed 80% of the statewide median family income, in which the nearest healthy food retailer is 1 to 10 miles away. A tract with a population of 2,500 or more people is considered urban, all others are rural. By this definition there are 6,529 food deserts with 13.6 million inhabitants in the continental U.S., 82 % of these are in urban areas.

According to the USDA's Food Desert Locator, areas within Humboldt County qualify as food deserts. This 2009 study by the California Center for Rural Policy offers a more comprehensive look at the food system in Humboldt County, and why so many struggle to obtain adequate nutrition. Our region is blessed with a robust and varied community of local food producers, 24 community gardens, seven farmers’ markets accepting CalFresh , and a growing number of Farm to School programs. But for all this bounty, there are still communities lacking in both availability of healthy foods and adequate transportation to access healthy foods.

The upside of any problem is the creative solutions that emerge from community members and organizations that resolve to reduce or eliminate the issue. Community and household gardens offer a chance for families and neighbors to connect while providing needed vegetables and fruits. Farmers’ markets are growing in number and popularity. Nationwide redemptions from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps) at farmers’ markets exceeded $11 million in 2011.Cities across the U.S. are offering incentives for existing grocery stores and corner markets to provide more fresh produce and for retailers to move into food deserts. The Obama administration’s Healthy Food and Financing Initiative was modeled after Pennsylvania’s Fresh Food Financing initiative that has added 88 retailers in 34 Pennsylvania counties and created more than 5,000 jobs.

Despite all this progress in the availability of permanent retail sites and markets many communities are still vulnerable to the plight of low food access; so enters the produce market on wheels! Fresh vegetables and fruits are being put on the truck and brought to the people in Indiana, Virginia, the city of Chicago (where food deserts have shrunk by 40%), the city of Atlanta, and many other locations. The majority of these trucks share the goal of providing fresh, local, and affordable produce to communities that otherwise have none.

In July of 2012, thanks to a CalFresh grant from the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), Food for People’s Mobile Produce Pantry hit the road with FREE vegetables and fruits! In its first three months of service, the produce truck provided fruits and vegetables for 853 households in the communities of Manila, Rio Dell, Orick, Weitchpec, Orleans, Bridgeville, and Willow Creek. The sites and distribution times were selected to coordinate with the regular visits of the DHHS Mobile Engagement Vehicle (MEV). Residents can select produce and visit the MEV to apply for CalFresh and to receive a variety of DHHS services. But this is only the beginning; Food for People will continue to seek opportunities to reach communities in need of increased access to fresh produce as long as the need exists.

SNAP by the Numbers

Hunger is all too prevalent in a country that boasts so many resources, as demonstrated by this interactive map from Feeding America. This report from the Food Research and Action Center provides more data on the causes of food insecurity in America.

The good news is that there are strategies in place for alleviating hunger and eventually ending food insecurity in the U.S., such as the President’s goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. As this white paper shows, current strategies are effective, but without increased support we won’t reach that goal.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and the Washington D.C. based Center on Budget Policy and Priorities provide real data on what SNAP costs, why the program has expanded so much (economy), and how it helps the economy.

Advocacy In Action!

Support Proposition 30!

Breaks and holidays from school add stress for many parents and caregivers, especially those who are low-income and at risk for food insecurity. School breaks translate into households providing two to three extra meals a day per child that are normally received at school, plus the additional burden of finding and paying for daycare. Backpacks for Kids programs that provide a weekend supply of food are also not distributed when school is out of session.

On November, 6th, if Californians vote "Yes" on Proposition 30, we can secure fiscal stability for our state, and ensure funding for healthcare, social services for low-income Californians, education, and public safety programs.

California gained 500,000 private sector jobs between February 2010 and July of 2011. Unfortunately, due to continued budget cuts, 31,200 public sector jobs were lost. More than 75 percent of these losses were in K-12 public schools and community colleges. As the number of unemployed Californians remains at a record high of 700,000, continued cuts to education will inflict even more harm.

Recent Census Bureau data revealed that 1 in 6 Californians lived in poverty in 2011. The rate for children is disproportionately higher at 1 in 4, or 24.3 percent of all children residing in California. In total, 16.9 percent of Californians are living in poverty, up from a pre-recession level of 12.2 percent in 2006.

If voters do not approve Proposition 30, public schools will lose an estimated $4.8 billion in funding. Schools will have the option to reduce the school year by 15 days, in addition to existing breaks and holidays. For struggling low-income families, these 15 days would be filled with uncertainty. Uncertainty of where the extra food will come from, and a fear of sporadic job attendance due to a lack of child care.

Proposition 30 offers a fair and balanced approach by increasing state revenues that would be used to increase funding for education and the General Fund, and will close the budget gap. This California Budget Project report offers a detailed explanation of how this proposal will work, what it can accomplish, and what the future may hold if it is not passed.

Get Out and Vote!

The November 6th elections offer the chance to participate in our democracy and have your opinion be heard. Contests range from Presidential to local city councils, and many important propositions. For more information about the issues and the candidates check out
League of Women Voters of Humboldt County. You can find your Humboldt County polling location at Smartvoter.org.

Farm Bill Update

The 2008 Farm Bill expired on September 30th, and for the first time in history it actually did expire without an extension. What does this mean? For people who depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Emergency Food Assistance Program it means nothing will change, until the next Farm Bill is approved or the deadline on funding for these programs is reached in March of 2013 without a new Farm Bill. For more details, check out this report from the Coalition on Human Needs.

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Hunger and Older Americans

Did you know that the cost of one year of home delivered meals to a low-income older American is roughly equivalent to the cost of one day in the hospital? Did you know that a lack of nutrients is correlated with 50% of all health conditions affecting American seniors? Senior Hunger: The Human Toll and Budget Consequences is a report submitted by Senator Bernard Sanders, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Primary Health and Aging in June of 2011. The report was released in conjunction with an attempt by its author to reauthorize and improve the Older Americans Act (OAA) of 1965. The OAA provides for vital services like meals, health programs, and transportation. Senator Sander’s report and this one from the Meals On Wheels Research Foundation serve as tools to increase awareness of the extent of food insecurity among Americans age 60 and above while revealing the financial toll associated with food hardship. The Older Americans Act was set to be reauthorized by Congress in 2011. Senator Sander’s bill to reauthorize and amend the OAA was introduced and referred to committee on January 26th, 2012. It still remains in committee. Contact your member of Congress and encourage them to support the reauthorization of this critical bill, or use this handy link provided by the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.

How Can I Help?

Act Now! Call your elected officials and and ask them to make strengthening nutrition and safety-net programs a priority in 2012.

If you are a Humboldt County resident, you will want to contact Senator Noreen Evans, Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro, and Governor Jerry Brown.

Senator Noreen Evans
State Capitol
1303 10th Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: 916-651-4002 OR 707-445-6508
Fax: (916) 323-6958

Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro
State Capitol
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA
Tel: (916) 319-2001
Fax: (916) 319-2101

Governor Jerry Brown
c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tel: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160

If you live outside of Humboldt, click here to find your district and contact information for your Senator and Assemblymember.

Calendar of Events & Local Happenings

Holiday Spirit Food and Fund Drive

The holiday season is coming sooner than you think! As we here at Food for People gear up for this time of year, we would like to invite the community to participate in our Holiday Spirit Food and Fund Drive to help ensure that everyone in Humboldt County has a holiday season free from hunger.

During the holiday season, Food for People places food collection barrels at a number of locations throughout the county, including local grocery stores, banks and businesses. These businesses and their locations are listed on our holiday donation bags, to make it easy for people to donate wherever they can. We partner with the Times-Standard to distribute these holiday bags with the newspaper, and you can expect to receive our bags by Thanksgiving. Keep in mind that food donations stay in the communities in which they were donated. Many thanks to all of the markets, businesses, churches, post offices and resource centers (listed by city on the back of our holiday bag) for hosting our collection efforts this season throughout the county.

Another way to contribute to our Holiday Spirit Food and Fund Drive is to participate in our annual Hunger Fighter Challenge. Hunger Fighter teams include businesses, churches, civic organizations and community groups, who sign up to participate in a friendly competition to determine which team can collect the most food and funds during the months of November and December. Each hunger fighter team has its own unique approach to raising food and funds, and all efforts are truly appreciated. Not only does the Hunger Fighter Challenge bring in much needed food, it is also a great mechanism for educating people about the reality of hunger in our community. If you are interested in putting together a Hunger Fighter team, just let us know by contacting our Local Food Resources Coordinator Laura Hughes at lhughes@foodforpeople.org or (707) 445-3166 ext. 312.

Our annual Holiday Spirit Food and Fund Drive is an ambitious undertaking, and we would not be able to serve the people we do—more than 12,000 people every month—without the sustained commitment of so many donors in our community who join us in the fight against hunger in Humboldt County. Every donation is important, no matter what size. Every can, every dollar, every hour you donate can make a big difference in a person’s life. If you would like to participate in this year’s Holiday Spirit Food and Fund Drive, please contact Laura Hughes at 445-3166 x312 or lhughes@foodforpeople.org.

The Turkey Ham Challenge!

During the coming season, Food for People provides special foods so families in need can create holiday meals. The cost of food has increased significantly and your donations of holiday meats are needed now more than ever. We hope to meet our goal of 200 Turkeys (10-15 pounds each) and 200 Hams (3-5 pounds each). Please contact Laura Hughes, Local Food Resources Coordinator at lhughes@foodforpeople.org or (707) 445-3166 extension 312 for more information or to drop off your donation at our Eureka location, 307 West 14th Street. For many local families in need, this food also provides hope – thank you for helping to make this happen!

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Happy Anniversary, Humboldt Market Match!

This August marked the first anniversary of a remarkable program that expands access to locally grown fruits and vegetables to low-income community members while stimulating our local economy: the Humboldt Market Match- a farmers’ market incentive program for CalFresh (formerly food stamps) participants! The program provides a matching incentive when $10 worth of wooden tokens, that are redeemable at each farmer’s stall, are purchased with a CalFresh EBT card.

Here are some of the highlights from the first year of the Humboldt Market Match:

• Spending of CalFresh dollars at North Coast Grower’s Association (NCGA) Farmers’ Markets have already increased by 44% in 2012 compared to 2011. CalFresh and Humboldt Market Match have brought an additional $18,000 to our local economy to date this year!

• NCGA Farmers’ Markets are extending Humboldt Market Match incentives to Women Infants and Children (WIC) Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program vouchers that can be redeemed at Farmers’ Markets.

• The Fortuna and the Southern Humboldt Farmers’ Markets now accept CalFresh EBT cards and are offering Humboldt Market Match. The matching benefits are provided by the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services through a grant to the Community Alliance with Family Farmers.

The North Coast Grower’s Association is part of a statewide partnership of organizations offering Market Match, the California Farmers’ Market Consortium (CFMC). The CFMC is managed by Roots of Change- a non-profit organization interested in establishing a sustainable food system.

For more information about using CalFresh at local farmers' markets and Humboldt Market Match contact North Coast Grower's Association and Food for People.


Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

The Redwood Community Action Agency’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program is recruiting volunteers for the 2013 tax season which operates from January 14th – April 15th. The VITA Program offers free tax preparation services for low-to-moderate income individuals and families throughout Humboldt and Del Norte counties. We are currently seeking both greeters (to welcome clients) and tax preparers. Volunteer today to help families receive the tax refunds they deserve, and put money back into our local economy! Build your resume, and be part of a rewarding and educational opportunity! There is no experience necessary to apply, and free training will be provided. For more information, please contact the VITA Program Coordinator, Lindsay Helms, at (707) 269-2016.

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Food for People's Monthly Cooking Class

Each month, Food for People organizes a free cooking class for low-income households in Humboldt County. Taught by volunteer chef and College of the Redwoods instructor, Anne Harris, this class teaches basic culinary skills, food and kitchen safety, and how to make nutritious and delicious dishes using commodity foods and fresh produce.

For more information, please contact Megan Westersund at Food for People (contact information below).


For more information on Food for People, to refer someone for assistance with CalFresh, to schedule a CalFresh training or application clinic, Hunger 101 presentation, or nutrition education activity for your organization, please contact:
Heidi McHugh
Community Education & Outreach Coordinator
(707) 445-3166 ext. 308 / hmchugh@foodforpeople.org
Megan Westersund
Nutrition Education Coordinator
ext. 305 / mwestersund@foodforpeople.org

*Images in this issue are provided by: Food for People, Chris Wisner, the USDA, Yes on Prop 30.com, Stuart Miles, Paul, Danilo Rizzuti, Ambro, healingdream, Master isolated images, Salvatore Vuono, stuffflypeoplelike.com, www.freegraphics.org, Michelle Meiklejohn, and chawalitpix of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.