Wednesday, December 2, 2009

54,000 People in Yolo County Struggle to Put Food on the Table

Report finds underutilization of federal programs aimed at alleviating food insecurity, costing Yolo County a $24,025,000 loss of benefits

A recently released statewide survey conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) shows that 2,875,000 California adults report struggling with food insecurity, the ability to obtain enough food on a regular basis. Of the households surveyed in Yolo County, 13,000 adults reported suffering from food insecurity. Using data on the surveyed households, the California Food Policy Advocates (CFPA) captured an additional 41,000 people living in these households who are also likely to suffer from food insecurity.

“Food insecurity as reported by the adult head of household almost always indicates that the problem affects the rest of the household as well. It makes sense that when an adult is affected it’s likely other adults, if not the entire household, are also food insecure” says Ken Hecht, Executive Director of the CFPA. “Children may not be as vulnerable to food insecurity because parents will do their best to protect their children from these struggles—but they are not always successful”.

Food insecurity and poor nutrition are pressing problems in California. Unfortunately, one of the existing solutions, the federal Food Stamp Program, is severely underutilized. CFPA released a report today entitled Lost Dollars, Empty Plates which details estimates of lost food stamp benefits and the resulting economic impact for counties and the state. Based on these calculations the report estimates that $24,025,000 in benefits would have gone to eligible Yolo County residents if the participation rate had reached 100%. This is possible; states such as Missouri, Maine and Tennessee serve nearly all eligible households and California should implement strategies to do the same. Furthermore, the additional food stamp benefits would have generated approximately $44,000,000 in economic activity in Yolo County.

The report suggests that increasing Food Stamp Program participation will not only help Californians in need, but will also bolster economic activity; a win-win situation for all involved. “In times like these we can’t afford to let valuable federal resources go unused" says Tia Shimada, Nutrition Policy Advocate at the CFPA.

The prevalence of food insecurity indicates that the underutilization of the Food Stamp Program does not result from a lack of need. Rather, barriers to access and enrollment contribute to low participation in the Food Stamp Program. “One of many possible strategies to alleviate the occurrence of food insecurity is to focus on policy changes geared toward eliminating such barriers” says Shimada.

The report outlines solutions aimed at reducing barriers to food stamp participation, such as:
· Removing the asset test, so households don’t have to hit rock bottom before qualifying
· Providing a phone or a web based interview process to avoid burdensome trips to the food stamp office
· Joining 46 other states that do not require a finger print image to complete enrollment; and
· Reducing paperwork by converting to a semi-annual simplified reporting system

The Lost Dollars, Empty Plates report is available here.

For more information, contact Ken Hecht, 510-409-6436, or Tia Shimada. 510-407-2868,

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