On May 16th over 100 people attended the CalFresh Forum to learn more about increasing program participation on the local level. CalFresh, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program as it is known nationally, serves as the first line of defense against hunger in the United States.
Most of us would be hard pressed to imagine what it feels like to not have enough money to feed our children at least one nutritious balanced meal every day. Unfortunately, for the working poor, that feeling is all too familiar. Nearly half of SNAP participants are working, yet still having trouble making ends meet at the end of the month.
Christine Dresslar Moss from the Monterey County Health Department said, “Hunger is now a symbol of long-term economic hardship, with 26% of children in Santa Cruz County experiencing food insecurity. That figure is higher than both the national and California average.”
The consequences of poor nutrition in childhood include poor academic performance, slower mental and emotional development, and lower resistance to stress. Paradoxically, not knowing where your next meal will come from often results in a feast or famine relationship with food that can lead to obesity.
Hunger hurts everyone. In addition to children, seniors and veterans are especially vulnerable, yet many are not receiving the benefits to which they are entitled. “Pride often keeps hunger invisible,” added Dresslar Moss.
Jessica Bartholow, a Policy Advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, said that everyone in the room was there because they have a passion to right something wrong. “It’s humiliating to be hungry,” she said. “It’s isolating and scary and very hard for a child to understand why other people have food and you don’t.”
Kevin Heuer, Interim Director of Community Programs/Director of Institutional Giving at Second Harvest, pointed out that even if Second Harvest could double the amount of meals it distributes, it wouldn’t fill the meal gap. According to the latest data from Feeding America, one in seven people in Santa Cruz, San Benito, and Monterey Counties is food insecure.
Keynote speaker, Assemblymember Mark Stone, spoke about how we can work together on the long-term solutions to end poverty and inequality in California. “The fabric of our community gets torn when kids and families go hungry,” Stone said, thanking the audience for the work they do in the community.
The CalFresh Forum was co-sponsored by Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County, Head Start, Champions for Change, Centro de Familia, and Catholic Charities Diocese of Monterey.
The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors declared May as CalFresh Awareness Month to help educate the public about the important role CalFresh plays in helping people pay for the nutritious food they need to stay healthy.
Second Harvest Food Bank Santa Cruz County has a bilingual team of CalFresh Outreach workers to help with the application process. If you know of someone experiencing food insecurity, please refer them to our Community Food Hotline for assistance.
Community Food Hotline: 831-662-0991