Press Release provided by California Association of Food Banks

Oakland, Calif., March 01, 2023 – Today, the California Association of Food Banks released data showing the impending 30% reduction in the meals provided by California’s food safety net, with the termination of two public programs that had started in response to the COVID-19 pandemic: CalFresh Emergency Allotments and Pandemic-EBT.

CalFresh, known as SNAP nationally, is the nation’s largest and most effective hunger relief program. Since March of 2020, CalFresh recipients have been receiving an extra benefit every month, called Emergency Allotments and the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 ended these. CalFresh recipients will receive their last Emergency Allotment on March 26, 2023.

“The end of emergency allotments is going to be catastrophic for California’s food insecure community members. There’s no way that food banks alone can fill the gap that the end of Emergency Allotments is going to create. That, coupled with the end of Pandemic EBT, means that California is about to lose more than 30% of its food safety net,” said Stacia Hill Levenfeld, CEO of the California Association of Food Banks. “CalFresh and Pandemic-EBT dollars are spent at local markets helping to stimulate local economies. The ripple effect of this economic loss is going to be felt throughout our communities.”

The ending of Emergency Allotments will impact all 5 million Californians currently on CalFresh – or about 3 million households. The average person is expected to lose about $82 per month, the average household will lose about $200 per month. All tallied, this represents a loss of $500 million in food benefits per month.

Soon after, at the close of the 2022-23 school year, Pandemic-EBT benefits will cease. Pandemic-EBT provides food benefits to school-age and young children who would have received free or reduced-price meals at school or daycare, but who lost access because of COVID-related school closures. This program was tethered to the federal Public Health Emergency status which is slated to end May 11, 2023. In the 2020-21 school year alone, Pandemic-EBT reached nearly 4.2 million children in California, providing more than $6.1 billion in benefits.

While the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 authorized a national Summer-EBT program, it will only provide a small fraction of the benefits that Pandemic-EBT has offered.

Key Takeaways: 

• Emergency Allotments which will disappear after March 26, 2023, have provided about 14% of the meals in California’s food safety net

• Pandemic EBT which will disappear after the 2022-23 school year, provided about 19% of the meals in California’s food safety net

• Food banks and other charitable food programs provide about 11% of the meals in California’s food safety net

In states that have already ended Emergency Allotments, data shows that 51% of CalFresh / SNAP recipients reported running low or being out of most things they needed, and either turned to friends, food banks, ate less or skipped meals altogether to fill the food gap.

At the same time California’s food banks are gearing up to support the millions impacted by this loss in benefits, they are suffering from a reduction in funding from both public and private sources.

“Food banks have been stretched thin since the onset of the pandemic distributing a billion pounds of food each year. And with this new crisis afoot we’re calling on the Governor to keep his commitment to fund the CalFood program, and to raise the ongoing funding for this program to $60 million annually – providing critical funds for food banks to buy California produced food as California’s hunger crisis not just persists but worsens,” said Becky Silva, director of government relations.

We’re also asking the Legislature and Governor to pass legislation to strengthen the food safety net. SB 600 by Senator Menjivar will raise the minimum CalFresh benefit in California from $23 to $50 – you can barely buy a carton of milk, loaf of bread, and a dozen eggs with $23 these days. And SB 348 by Senator Skinner would build on California’s groundbreaking School Meals for All by ensuring every student fully benefits from healthy school meals and by maximizing the newly authorized Summer-EBT program. Hunger is a policy choice and California needs to bring all available resources to bear.” 

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