Erika Witt | First 5 LA Policy Analyst

September 27, 2023

The California Association of Food Banks estimates that 31% of people in Los Angeles County do not have enough to eat. The actual figure may be even higher according to a USC Dornsife Center for Economic and Social Research survey, which found that as many as 37% of low-income Angelenos experienced food insecurity in 2022. 

These numbers paint a grim picture of rising food insecurity in Los Angeles and beyond, especially for people of color and their children. However, Congress will be able to reverse course this fall and reduce hunger for low-income individuals, as well as families and their children, through the “Farm Bill,” which is set to expire at the end of September.  

Reauthorized every five years, this piece of federal legislation determines agricultural subsidies, conservation programs and new farm policies, and major provisions for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that provides 40 million Americans with food-purchasing nutrition assistance. SNAP accounts for 81% of the Farm Bill’s total spending.  

However, this year has set a foreboding precedent for anti-hunger policymaking. In March, the federal government ended the expanded SNAP benefits implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. More recently, Congress increased work requirements and time limits for accessing SNAP benefits.  

The resulting hunger cliff has led to a dramatic and sudden drop in the value of food benefits across the country. In California, the average enrollee in CalFresh, the state’s SNAP program, received $214 a month in nutrition assistance during the pandemic. Today, those same benefits have been reduced to $179 a month — a scant $6 per person per day. Rising inflation rates have only exacerbated the effects of these reductions — since August 2022, food prices in L.A. County have increased by 4.1%, stoking demand on local food banks and CalFresh. 

Nutrition assistance programs are a vital element of the social safety net. In addition to offering immediate benefits to health and well-being by reducing food insecurity among beneficiaries, these programs also promote longer-term economic security. Notably, 35% of infants in L.A. County are enrolled in CalFresh prior to their first birthday — highlighting the significance of this program for young children and their families.  

According to the California Budget & Policy Center, almost 12% of Californians lived in poverty in 2021; without CalFresh, that figure would have been 2.6 points higher. Congress has the obligation to ensure that young children and their families are not left behind in partisan debates on the Farm Bill by reinforcing the understanding of the intangible, long-term, value in alleviating food insecurity and deep poverty beginning in early childhood.

A working paper published by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth found that receiving nutritional assistance during childhood substantially reduced adult poverty by as much as five percentage points. The greatest reductions in poverty — seven percentage points — were found among Black adults, demonstrating the critical role nutrition assistance plays in reducing inequities across racial and ethnic groups, as well as breaking intergenerational cycles of poverty.  

First 5 LA has continuously advocated for nutrition assistance programs that are crucial in supporting families, many of whom are struggling with the heightened poverty and racial inequities resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Allowing pandemic-era enhanced nutrition benefits to expire, while inadequately funding programs vital to child development and family economic well-being, is a lamentable policy regression that will push families to make devastating tradeoffs in the face of rising living costs.  

The upcoming reauthorization of the Farm Bill offers Congress the opportunity to expand food access for children and families. By maximizing SNAP benefits and reducing eligibility barriers for nutrition assistance programs, lawmakers can ensure that California’s children and families continue to get the vital support they need. 




Pride Month 2024: Empowering Change in Los Angeles

Pride Month 2024: Empowering Change in Los Angeles

June 2024 Summer kicks off with Pride Month! This month-long event is held in June to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City and to celebrate the history and achievements of the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, Pride Month is an opportunity to...

May 9, 2024, Board of Commission Meeting Summary

May 9, 2024, Board of Commission Meeting Summary

First 5 LA's Board of Commissioners convened in person on May 9, 2024. Vice Chair Summer McBride presided over the meeting, which included votes on the Revised Records Management Policy and Records Retention Schedule and an amendment to an existing strategic...

Honoring AANHPI Innovators and Leaders, Past and Future

Honoring AANHPI Innovators and Leaders, Past and Future

As We Celebrate Asian American, Native Hawaíian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month  This May, First 5 LA joins Los Angeles County in celebrating Asian American, Native Hawaíian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month. Originally designated as a week-long...

Media Campaign to Promote Bilingualism Adds Four New Languages

Media Campaign to Promote Bilingualism Adds Four New Languages

Christina Hoag | Freelance Writer April 25, 2024 Last year, Spanish and Chinese. This year, Vietnamese, Khmer, Korean and Armenian. The Dual Language Learner Initiative has launched a new media campaign in four additional languages to encourage increased bilingualism...

Home Visiting Garners Increasing Official Recognition

Home Visiting Garners Increasing Official Recognition

  Christina Hoag | Freelance Writer April 25, 2024 In April, four of Los Angeles County’s biggest cities officially recognized Home Visiting Day for the first time, a sign of home visiting’s expanding public awareness and the region’s leading role in the programs...

March 14, 2024, Board of Commission Meeting Summary

March 14, 2024, Board of Commission Meeting Summary

Ruel Nolledo | Freelance Writer March 27, 2024 The First 5 LA Board of Commissioners convened in person and virtually on March 14, 2024. The agenda included the approval of a new Early Care & Education agreement, an authorization for First 5 LA staff to receive...

New Study Examines Developmental Concerns of Families in WIC

New Study Examines Developmental Concerns of Families in WIC

 Ann Isbell | First 5 LA Health Systems Program Officer March 27, 2024 Because parents are deeply attuned to their children, they are often the first to notice a developmental concern. But when they have questions about their child’s developmental progress, many...

Translate