We envision a community where everyone understands the consequences of hunger and poor nutrition and is committed to creating a stronger, healthier Humboldt County
This is why Food for People advocates for policies and strategies that reduce poverty and hunger and support access to nutritious foods and good health.
Ending hunger is no small challenge. Food banks play a critical role, but we can’t do it alone. Fighting hunger is not only about providing emergency food to people in need – it also means taking action to address the root causes of hunger and poverty. Our Advocacy Program works with the program participants, advocacy volunteers, partner organizations, statewide allies, and legislative representatives to advocate for policies, programs, and legislation that reduce both poverty and hunger at the federal, state and local levels.
Learn about the policies and legislation that we have our eyes on (including the ones below...keep scrolling!)
Then click on the links we provide to easy-to-use tools for making your voice heard on the issues.
Subscribe to our bimonthly Hunger Action E-Newsletter
Keep up on issues at the forefront of hunger and nutrition policy. Each E-Newsletter includes ways to take action and use your voice to make change. We welcome you to peruse back issues too.
Travel with us to the State Capitol for Hunger Action Day
Support legislation that is critical to reducing hunger and poverty. Tell your story, share your experience, and help us communicate the unique needs and challenges of our community.
Get familiar with our allies and coalitions in California and nationwide
They provide a wealth of resources, tools, and background on our collective advocacy work. Links are included as you scroll down on this page.
Proposed Change to SNAP Categorical Eligibility: Submit Comment Here
At the federal level, a rule has been proposed that would kick 3 million people off of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also known as CalFresh, in California), the nation's first line of defense against hunger. SNAP eligibility is based upon earnings at or below 130% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). For a family of four, the FPL is $33,600/year, not taking into account the varying cost of living based on geography and family composition/ages. A family of four would need to earn a minimum of $62,331 to be self-sufficient in Eureka, CA--a difference of nearly $30,000 between qualifying for nutrition assistance and reaching self-sufficiency. In Humboldt County, 57% of all households earn less than $49,000. Many of the households we serve share that they cannot afford to put food on their tables, yet do not qualify for SNAP. The proposed rule would increase hunger and poverty, especially for working families with children whose net incomes are below the poverty line and families and seniors with a small amount of savings.
Currently, Broad Based Categorical Eligibility (BBCE) has been an option offered to states by the federal government, allowing them to raise SNAP income limits somewhat so that many low-income working families that have difficulty making ends meet, such as because they face costly housing or childcare expenses, can receive help affording adequate food. Forty states, including California, currently use BBCE to allow households to receive SNAP if their income is at or below 200% FPL (for a family of four--$51,504 or under) as long as they meet other eligibility criteria. The newly proposed federal rule would undo the successes of BBCE.
The benefit cliff: The estimated 120,000 Californians that would lose benefits with the proposed federal rule may spike even higher as minimum wage increases, pushing more people over what is known as the "benefit cliff." In this scenario, a small rise in income results in a complete loss of benefits that are often substantially more than the gain from the small income raise. In contrast, BBCE allows families to ease off of benefits as their incomes rise.
Economic impact: Local retailers and farmers' markets will feel the economic impact of a reduction in SNAP benefits. The USDA Economic Research Service calculated that the federal dollars from SNAP brought $7.2 billion into California's economy in 2016.
Impact on hunger: SNAP keeps people healthy and fed. Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of hunger: poor health, higher rates of hospitalization, increased risk of asthma, and delays in cognitive development are associated with food insecurity. More than 74% of California's SNAP recipients are children.
The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on July 24, 2019 kicking off a 60-day public comment period. All comments must be received by USDA's Food and Nutrition Service on or before September 23, 2019.
Click here to submit your comment, using Food Research & Action Center's comment platform.
CalFresh for Non-Citizens & "Public Charge"
The following information is based on analysis of the final public charge rule on inadmissibility and is not legal advice. For information about a specific case, please contact an immigration expert. To find help in your area, visit www.immigrationadvocates.org/nonprofit/legaldirectory.
On August 14, 2019 the final rule regarding public charge was posted to the federal register, and it is intended to go into effect 60 days later, on October 15, 2019. Law suits have been filed by states and counties, which may impact how and if the rule plays out, so please keep up with potential updates (filed thus far by California, Washington, Virgina, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Maine, Oregon, Pennsylvania, District of Colombia, and 2 California counties) 266,000 people submitted comments during the comment period, which helped make a few improvements to the rule, but ultimately there are some major changes that are important to understand. There is a false impression that receiving benefits means a person is not contributing. In fact a vast majority (91%) of those newly affected are working, but for low wages.
The prior definition of Public Charge: an individual who is likely to become “primarily
dependent on the government for subsistence, as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance, or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense.”
Being classified as a Public Charge may hurt chances of becoming a U.S. citizen in the future. In the past this has typically applied to cash aid programs and long-term care institutionalization and not programs such as SNAP/CalFresh, Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, etc.
New definition of Public Charge: Beginning on October 15, 2019, an individual who receives one or more of the below listed public benefits for more than 12 months in a 36 month period. Each benefit counts as one month (so receiving 3 of these benefits in one month equals 3 months). The expanded list of benefits that this will include are:
- Cash Assistance for income maintenance (this was part of previous definition and will continue to be)
- Institutionalization for long-term care at government expense (this was part of previous definition and will continue to be)
- SNAP (CalFresh in California)
- Medicaid (with exceptions--does not include Part D. There are exceptions for emergency medical conditions, coverage of children under age 21, and pregnant women)
- Federal, State, Local, and Tribal Cash Assistance
- Housing Assistance (public housing, Section 8 Housing Vouchers, and Rental Assistance)
These are not the only factors considered in determining Public Charge. The government also looks at totality of circumstances, such as age, health, family status, financial status, education and skills, affidavit of support.
Clearing up misinformation: Though we are waiting to see the outcome of lawsuits that have been filed, there is still misinformation about which other programs do or don't affect Public Charge. Please note the following:
- School meals are NOT included in the Public Charge rule. It is safe to fill out applications for the school meal program! Since the 2019-2020 school year has either begun, or for many districts is just about to, please help get the word out that no one should fear enrolling for free and reduced-cost school meals for their children.
- WIC is NOT included in the Public Charge rule.
Who does Public Charge ground of inadmissibility apply to?
It does NOT apply to everyone. It does NOT apply to:
- Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) "green card holders" applying for citizenship
- Refugees and Asylees
- VAWA self-petitioners
- Survivors of domestic violence, trafficking, or other serious crimes (U or T visa applicants/holders)
- Special immigrant juveniles
- Certain parolees
- Several other categories of non-citizens
Applies only to benefit applications submitted on or after October 15, 2019 (and continuing cases that day onward)
- Changes will NOT be retroactive (names prior to this date are not included)
- Benefits used by family members are not counted against you (for example, benefits used by a U.S. citizen child do not count toward the adult applicant's public charge test, but will count toward income test)
- Doesn't count against current SNAP/CalFresh participants unless still on the program October 15, 2019
Every situation is different. Consult with an immigration attorney if you have questions about your own case.
When does Public Charge come up?
- Applying to be allowed into U.S. for first time
- Applying to adjust status to become a LPR – obtaining a green card
- Green card holder who leaves U.S. for more than 180 consecutive days.
Where to find more information:
- Protecting Immigrant Families website has a large amount of community resources for learning about the topic, in several languages.
- PIF public charge analysis and FAQs
- PIF public charge webinar slideshow
- National WIC Association provides resources on this topic, in several languages (NOTE: WIC is not included in the final public charge rule.)
- Immigrant Legal Resource Center public charge outreach toolkit
- Calfornia Primary Care Association's public charge FAQs for health care providers
A few downloads that may be helpful for learning about this topic:
- Summary document (double-sided 1-pager) on the core community messages and background on public charge
- Community Messages (another version) about public charge in English and Spanish
- Basic public charge info & scenarios (double-sided 1-pager) with infographic on scenarios/does this apply to me?
- Legal consultation and/or education contact list compiled by California Dept. of Social Services (also see this legal services link)
- Additional referral phone numbers to learn more about the final public charge rule
- Know Your Rights and whether the new rule applies to you
The Farm Bill
The federal policies that are crafted within the Farm Bill shape the landscape of food and agriculture for the entire nation. Of particularconcern for food banks and anti-hunger organizations is the Nutrition Title, which sets funding and regulations for critical nutrition
assistance programs like SNAP, known as CalFresh in California. The current Farm Bill is set to expire on September 30, 2018. As Congress drafts the next Farm Bill, advocates are
working to protect SNAP from funding cuts and changes in eligibility that will cause people to lose benefits. Check out the following resources to learn more:
Farm Bill basics from the Food Research and Action CenterSNAP Basics from the Center for Budget and Policy PrioritiesWho Does SNAP Reach in California?SNAP Fact Sheets for California’s 2nd District (and this fact sheet too)The House Agricultural Committee’s Draft of the Farm Bill will Cause Millions to Lose SNAP Benefits
The 2018 Farm Bill proposal released by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX) contains harmful proposals that would weaken SNAP. This bill has passed out of committee and will move the floor for a full vote. Among the most damaging proposals in the bill is the repeal of "Categorical Eligibility". California, and most other states, have used this policy option for years to protect low-wage working families from having their CalFresh benefits cut off when they work a few more hours and earn just a little more take home pay when most of those household earnings must go toward California's sky-high housing, child care, and transportation costs. The proposed changes would also sever the connection to free school meals for thousands of California children.
California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) has prepared a fact sheet explaining how categorical eligibility helps struggling Californians access vital food assistance, and who would be at risk of losing assistance if proposed changes were enacted through the 2018 Farm BillCalifornia’s Anti-Hunger Community Opposes the House Farm BillFood for People Board Member’s My Word in the Times StandardRepresentative Jared Huffman discusses the Farm Bill on Off the CuffCenter for Budget and Policy Priorities analysis of how the House Farm Bill proposal will increase hungerPerspective from a SNAP recipient on how these changes will affect SNAP users
Protecting Safety Net Programs
CalFresh (SNAP at the federal level) reduced hunger in every California county, but potential changes at the federal level could lead to a cut in benefits. The program helps approximately 4 million families put food on the table. SNAP lifts families out of poverty and has been shown to improve children’s health and well being. Cutting federal funding for SNAP would plunge families into poverty, and children could be deprived of the nutrition necessary to stay healthy and reach their full potential. Click here to read more from the California Budget & Policy Center.
Click here to view/download our informational flyer on the impacts of potential federal SNAP cuts in Humboldt County. This includes information for who to contact to voice your opinion.
Click here to view/download our informational flyer on the impacts of potential federal cuts to the Affordable Care Act in Humboldt County and California. This includes information for who to contact to voice your opinion.
Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2017
This bill increases SNAP benefit adequacy by:
- Calclating SNAP benefits using the "Low-Cost Food Plan" rather than the "Thrifty Food Plan" which has been the national standard the USDA uses for a nutritious diet at a minimal cost;
- Eliminates the cap on the SNAP Excess Shelter Deduction (housing costs that are more than half of the household's income after other deductions calculated in the eligibility process);
- Raising the minimum SNAP benefit from $16 to $25 per month;
- Authorizing a SNAP Standard Excess Medical Deduction for persons who are elderly or have a disability;
- Protecting certain jobless adults, who are willing to work, from being time-limited out of SNAP if the state does not offer them SNAP Employment & Training positions.
Click here to view the bill online.
Raising SSI payments: Take Action to Lift California Seniors and Persons with Disabilities out of Poverty
In California, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), combined with the State Supplemental Payment (SSP) for food, is a program funded jointly by the Federal and State governments to provide income support to seniors and people with disabilities. Low SSI/SSP grant levels leave many California seniors and people with disabilities struggling to meet their basic needs. Many find that after paying rent they have little, if anything, left for food, medical expenses, transportation and clothing, and can't afford to take care of basic needs like doing laundry or buying personal hygeine items. SSI/SSP has experienced cuts over the years, and the maximum grant for individuals is currently $910.72 per month, which is 90 percent of the federal poverty line. These cuts remain in place today and cause a great deal of hardship for approximately 6,000 Humboldt County seniors and people with disabilities, and a total of 1.5 million people across the state.
Click here to learn more from the California Budget & Policy Center about the potential impact on SSI/SSP if federal cuts are made to this program.
Please consider supporting a proposal to help seniors and people with disabilities experiencing poverty in California by signing a petition asking state legislators and policymakers to increase SSI/SSP grant levels. Click here to do so. (This is a statewide campaign, with the petition hosted by St. Anthony's in San Francisco.)
The status quo--keeping SSI/SSP grant levels the way they are--means keeping recipients in poverty with high risk of becoming houseless, hungry and in poor health. If legislation were enacted to raise SSI/SSP benefit amounts above the poverty line, it would lift 1.5 million California seniors and persons with disabilities out of poverty
California Budget Bites submitted this blog on the topic to the Sacramento Bee.
The California Budget and Policy Center published this fact sheet in March 2015 comparing current SSI/SSP grant levels to each California county's fair market rent for a studio apartment. The county-by-county list shows how little money is left for SSI recipients after paying rent. In addition, they published this fact sheet in March 2016, showing how SSI/SSP benefit levels are inadequate to cover the cost of rent and food for seniors and people with disabilities in California.
Share Their Stories: Visit the website of the advocacy group CA4SSI to learn about the advocacy group's work, read, watch, and listen to stories about SSI recipients living on insufficient SSI benefits, and find out how to take action. Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) put together a powerful series of "SSI Listening Sessions" #IfOnlyYouKnew videos, in which food bank clients talk about what it's like to be a senior or person with a disability in California, living on insufficient SSI benefits. Their personal stories are powerful and shared amongst SSI recipients all over the state. Learn more by viewing the clips below and visit ACCFB's webpage for their #IfOnlyYouKnew campaign for Hunger Action Month.
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR) Act authorizes all of the federal child nutrition programs, including the School Breakfast, National School Lunch, Child and Adult Care Food, Summer Food Service, and the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Programs and WIC. These programs provide funding to ensure that low-income children have access to healthy and nutritious foods where they live, play, and learn. Reauthorization provides an opportunity to improve and strengthen programs. Research demonstrates the ability of the child nutrition programs to improve educational achievement, economic security, nutrition and health.
The law is reauthorized by Congress every five years. It was last reauthorized as the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, and is up again for reauthorization in 2015. The Senate Agriculture Committee and the House Education and Workforce Committee will both take the lead in the reauthorization process. The Committees will each work on the legislation, taking input from other members of the Senate and House of Representatives. They then will merge their bills to develop one final bill.
Learn more at Food Research & Action Center's CNR page and at No Kid Hungry (Share Our Strength). As Reathorization approaches, another great place to keep up is California Food Policy Advocates' CNR page.
Hunger, Nutrition, and Poverty on the State Policy Agenda
California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) share their State Policy Agenda. You can also follow the progress and status of proposed legislation on hunger, nutrition and poverty by visiting their Hunger Legislation Tracker.
CalFresh Advocacy Partners at the State and National Levels:
The Alliance to Transform CalFresh contains a wealth of information about improving CalFresh participation in California, with resources and information on opportunities for advocating for improvements state-wide.
California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) has a great website if you're interested in legislative advocacy. Their CalFresh page will tell you everything you need to know about upcoming legislative advocacy priorities, recommendations for improving the applicant experience and links to their reports and data.
The Food Research and Action Center has a ton of advocacy-oriented imformation about SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program--or what CalFresh is known as at the federal level), including data, resources and publications.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a leading resource for data on SNAP and how legislative actions affect the program's participants and potential participants. Learn about some of the policy basics and introductory statistics, such as that nearly 72 percent of SNAP participants are in families with children, and more than one-quarter of participants are in households with seniors or people with disabilities, and go further with their many interesting analyses and reports.
Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger is a national nonprofit organization working to end hunger among people of all faiths and backgrounds. Join any of their specific campaigns to end hunger for children, seniors, military families, and beyond, and learn more about hunger policy and advocacy work.
Every September is Hunger Action Month
Get involved locally during Hunger Action Month, and carry some of the ideas and actions of Hunger Action Month all year long.
As hunger-related legislative advocacy opportunities arise, we will post simple instructions on how to get involved and make your voice heard.