The State of Hunger in OC 2023 Virtual Forum
For Hunger Action Month 2023, the leaders of the three OCHA partner organizations joined together to outline the challenges faced by the OC anti-hunger community so far in 2023 and to look toward current and future solutions needed in the hunger-relief sector. Panelists include Claudia Bonilla Keller, CEO, Second Harvest Food Bank; Mark Lowry, Director, OC Food Bank; and Mike Learakos, CEO, Abound Food Care. Moderator is Malia Cary, Government & Public Affairs Manager, Second Harvest Food Bank. Click here to watch.
A healthy Orange County community
with equitable access to nutritious food.
Optimize the emergency food system
to address root causes of poverty.
As a connected community of 3.2 million people, we must open our eyes to the reality that hunger lives in the shadows of every city in Orange County. But because even the three largest anti-hunger/anti-poverty organizations can only do so much in silos, we formed the Orange County Hunger Alliance to make lasting, systemic impact.
FOR THE FIRST TIME, WE ARE UNITING THROUGH A SHARED, COMMON FOCUS TO:
REDUCE FOOD WASTE
If hunger isn’t solved, then poverty, social justice, health and education outcomes remain at risk
THE NEED IS GREAT
While hunger has always lived in Orange County, the economic devastation from the pandemic has widened the hunger gap:
- The county’s food insecurity rate is projected to be 13.7 percent, a significant increase from 2018’s 8.5 percent
- Pandemic-related unemployment caused thousands more Orange County residents to experience food insecurity for the first time
- Second Harvest and CAP OC Food Banks weathered record spikes in demand for food in excess of 400 percent
A REVOLUTIONARY APPROACH
As one entity, we are addressing hunger and enacting positive change by:
- Leveraging purchasing power
- Increasing food distribution efficiencies
- Minimizing food waste by streamlining the movement of food
- Shrinking our carbon footprint via more direct food transportation routes
- Pursuing shared funding
- Powerfully advocating for hunger- and poverty-ending programs and policies
BUILT TO CREATE REAL, LASTING CHANGE
A true commitment of shared philosophies, resources and strategies, the Alliance recognizes hunger’s role in fueling systemic poverty. Our food banks—which support over 500 network partners—are zeroing in on solving hunger. We will also focus on tackling other root causes of poverty, like barriers to healthcare, education and job training, social and racial inequities and lack of affordable housing.
ENDING INTERGENERATIONAL POVERTY
We believe the cycle of intergenerational poverty can be broken. It begins with supporting elementary-aged children, who need nutritious food every day at home and at school. In providing kids with consistent access to healthy food, they are better equipped to focus, grow with confidence, succeed at school and transcend poverty.
With our help, this young generation could be the one to break the cycle of intergenerational poverty.
For more on the importance of good nutrition for school-aged children, CLICK HERE.
Food Insecurity Today
Over the next few months, we expect our Orange County neighbors in need to experience a “food cliff" (a significant and serious decrease in food and nutritional security) due to several factors, including the end of CalFresh pandemic-related Emergency Allotments, double and triple home heating bills, increasing food prices and continuning supply chain challenges.
Who Will Be Affected
Many food-insecure children, families and seniors will be impacted, and especially CalFresh recipients – more than 5 million Californians; nearly 300,000 Orange County households.
Emergency Allotments (EAs), which were approved through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, known as CalFresh in California) in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, have been sunsetted as planned. This means that CalFresh benefits are no longer tied to the federal Public Health Emergency and that recipients received their final enhanced benefits this March. Their benefits have now returned to the pre-pandemic level.
According to the Orange County Department of Social Services, this means $30 million less in benefits each month, and $360 million less annually, to vulnerable Orange County families. The impact will be especially felt in households that could go from currently receving $281 per month to a mere $23 per month.
In addition to the reduction of benefits, the cost of basic necessities is skyrocketing. Food prices have increased tremendously, and home heating bills have doubled or tripled in most cases. This food cliff is forcing families to cut back on their food budget so that they can afford essential expenses such as rent, gas or medical bills. At a time when the cost of living is rapidly increasing, the first sacrifice that many families make is in the quality of nutrition.
How We're Helping
Families that have lost their crucial food assistance benefits are relying heavily on local food banks and pantries. To address this situation, the Orange County Hunger Alliance is looking at ways to support our partners and pantries to meet their inventory needs. Some of our partners are reporting double the amount of people coming to them for food.
OC Food Cliff By The Numbers
Less In Benefits Each Month*
Less In Benefits Annually*
Orange County Department of Social Services
In The News
Discover our impact in Orange County by reading about our inspring work. From feeding families during the pandemic to supporting children’s nutrition programs, our efforts are transforming lives in the community. Click on an image below to read our latest stories.
The Orange County Hunger Alliance, with assistance from Charitable Ventures, is surveying nonprofit organizations that serve Orange County, as well as individuals that rely on the services provided. Please click on the videos below to view the recorded sessions.
The OC Hunger Alliance is seeking corporate partners and sponsors to help us further our efforts to end hunger and address poverty in the community.