Hunger Action Day, the California Hunger Action Coalition’s 22nd annual statewide lobby day, took place on May 16, 2018 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee members Nick Travaglini and Ward Kanowsky took a bus to the event with almost 60 other advocates from the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), one of IEB’s partner organizations, to join over 300 more advocates from across the state.
Hunger Action Day provides an opportunity to be an anti-hunger policy advocate, talk to legislators about ending hunger, and meet fellow advocates from across California. This year’s theme was FOOD IS A HUMAN RIGHT, with some sobering statistics to underscore it:
- California has the highest poverty rate in the U.S. when accounting for the cost of living: 20% overall, including one in four children
- Reflecting that 20% figure, ACCFB serves one in five Alameda County residents
- One in eight Californians experiences food insecurity – does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food
Nick and Ward joined teams that met with staff of East Bay state representatives Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and Senator Steve Glazer, among many other legislators, to discuss the coalition’s priority anti-hunger policy issues. Team members, who often bring their children to the meetings, are encouraged to share personal stories to show how existing policies – or the lack thereof – affect them and their families. These real life mini-histories take up the bulk of the meetings, and for good reason, since they can have the greatest impact because of their immediacy and emotion.
The top “ask” for all teams – what we all asked the elected officials and their staffs to prioritize – related to lifting seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty. Many in these vulnerable groups rely heavily or solely on monthly Supplemental Security Income (SSI) to get by and are forced to make impossible choices between food, medicine and housing. As a result, many are homeless or at risk of being without housing because they are living at 90% of the federal poverty level. AB 3200 (Kalra) would restore monthly payments to individuals and married couples to 100% of the federal poverty level, and would also reinstate the annual cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) that was repealed in 2009.
Related to this priority of helping people who receive SSI combat hunger: the dismaying fact that California is the only state where people who receive SSI aren’t eligible for SNAP (CalFresh) benefits – better known as food stamps – due to a program known as Cashout. A movement to end Cashout was discussed with legislative staff by the teams, and ACCFB informed us that the very next day after Hunger Action Day, the Senate Budget Subcommittee voted to end Cashout. The Assembly Budget Subcommittee is expected to follow the Senate Subcommittee with the same actions this week. If both houses pass this measure, people on SSI will be able to get CalFresh benefits. The bottom line is that our voices matter!
If you want to get involved in IEB’s work to end hunger in California, contact Ward.