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CA Hunger-Fighting Groups Optimistic after White House Conference

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Tuesday, October 4, 2022   

Groups fighting hunger in California say untold suffering could be avoided if the policies championed at the latest White House conference are put into place.

The event was the first of its kind in 50 years, bringing together government agencies, nonprofits and private companies, with the goal of wiping out hunger in the U.S. by 2030.

Itzúl Gutierrez with the California Association of Food Banks said she was glad to hear President Joe Biden voice support for strategies to reduce poverty and thus, fight hunger.

"We were very excited to see raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and also expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit, in addition to the Child Tax Credit," Gutierrez outlined. "And also investments in housing and rental assistance."

The conference also promoted ideas long championed by the California Hunger Action Coalition, including expanding free school meals to all kids, and allowing college students, recent immigrants, and formerly incarcerated people to participate in CalFresh.

Gutierrez pointed out she was disappointed the conference made little mention of food insecurity in undocumented families. Many of the proposals face significant Republican opposition in Congress, based on cost concerns.

Tracy Weatherby, vice president of strategy and advocacy for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, said 60% of its clients have less than $250 in savings, and the financial squeeze will get worse once the feds declare the public health emergency is over.

When it happens, she stressed, CalFresh benefits are slated to drop an average of 82-dollars a month per person.

"The White House strategy comes at a crucial time, as nearly all pandemic-era social safety net programs are ending, while food, gas, rent, and other prices are rising," Weatherby noted. "And that's really leaving families across the country struggling to cover their basic costs."

Todd Cunningham, organizer for food and wellness for the Los Angeles Community Action Network, said the pandemic proved when there's a will, there's a way.

"Not only did they do the school meals for all during the regular school year, but also when summer came around," Cunningham recounted. "They also came up with solutions for people who couldn't make it to school to pick them up. We've seen that we can actually come up with creative solutions, if we just put our minds to it and then, we have the will to do it."

Statistics show one in five households experiences food insecurity, with deeper disparities for Black and Latino communities.


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