Nov 2, 2023 - News

California's food insecurity rates are increasing again

Data: USDA Economic Research Service; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: USDA Economic Research Service; Chart: Axios Visuals

Despite hovering beneath national averages for nearly a decade, rates of food insecurity in California are on the rise again, new government data shows.

Driving the news: In California, 10.3% of households were food insecure on average from 2020 to 2022, according to the report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's economic research service.

  • That's compared to 9.6% on average between 2019 and 2021.

Details: Food insecurity means that at times during the year, a given household couldn't get enough food for one or more of its members because they didn't have enough money or resources.

  • Those with "very low" food security eat less food or skip meals. In a house with children, the adults might go without so the kids can eat.

Zoom in: In San Francisco, 1 in 4 residents is at risk of hunger due to low income, according to the city's public health department.

  • The Board of Supervisors established the Food Security Task Force in 2005 to spearhead citywide strategies on issues including meal deliveries for seniors, students' participation in school meals and CalFresh benefits.

What they're saying: When times are tight, it can often be "easiest" to cut back on food, says Lisa Davis, a senior vice president at Share Our Strength, an anti-poverty nonprofit.

  • "If you don't pay the rent or your mortgage, you don't have a place to live. If you don't put gas in the car, you can't get to work," Davis tells Axios.
  • "Food is the place that folks turn when they have to tighten the belt even more."
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