Berkeley Food Network participated in a week of state-level advocacy for Hunger Action Week, an initiative of the California Hunger Action Coalition (CHAC). Through CHAC’s organizing, several teams of advocates met with roughly ⅓ of the California Legislature to discuss the emergency food system, the accessibility of public services for vulnerable Californians, and much more. (The 2022 Policy Agenda can be found here.) Hunger Action Week resulted from the contributions of many changemakers across the state, but I’d like to say a special thank you to the California Association of Food Banks, Nourish California, the Glide Center for Social Justice, and Hunger Action LA for their leadership in coordinating this momentous initiative.
In light of historic budget surpluses, Hunger Action Week advocates asked to invest “California’s wealth for the people’s health” in nutrition security for undocumented residents, seniors, disabled adults, and children, as well as our regional food economies. I personally had the opportunity to lead calls with three legislative offices, including those of Senator Toni Atkins, Senator Robert Dahle, and Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin. The attentiveness we received during our meetings underscored hunger as an issue that brings everyone to the table. Now more than ever, this broad base of support is critical as service providers distribute food to ever larger numbers of clients.
Like many others, BFN has seen a sharp uptick in service usage as inflation has spiked; in January and February 2022, our onsite pantry alone served an average of 1278 people a week, which jumped to 1792 people for March and April. The latter figure is equal to total demand for all BFN Distribution services two years ago, when the onset of COVID-19 tripled the number of clients we served. We must continue to marshal the Golden State’s considerable agricultural and economic resources to allay nutrition insecurity for low- and moderate-income Californians. BFN is proud to be both on the front lines and in policymaking spaces to fight, and ultimately end, hunger in our communities.