The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health: what it means for San Francisco and Marin

October 5, 2022

Last week, President Biden set an audacious goal: eliminate food insecurity by 2030. His commitment came as he presided over the first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in over 50 years. 

“The energy in the room as the President of the United States of America made that commitment was kinetic,” said Tanis Crosby, executive director of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, who attended the conference. “To hear the reaction from people who are or have experienced food insecurity, advocates, teachers, academics, and more was profound.” 

This is the commitment anti-hunger advocates and food banks have been demanding from the federal government for decades.  

 

#FoodForAll means support for all

Ending hunger will take collective effort from all of us – including policymakers. Ahead of the White House Conference, we mobilized feedback from our community partners as part of the Feeding America Elevating Voices to End Hunger campaign. Their feedback, along with the voices of thousands of people experiencing food insecurity, other community-based organizations, and food banks nationwide helped formulate policy recommendations to the administration.  

 “Together with Feeding America, we uplifted voices to hear from people experiencing hunger. That, full stop, is our advocacy focus,” said Tanis. “We learn what works and where policy needs to improve from listening to people telling us what they need. That’s how we achieve our goal of ending food insecurity.” 

The responses from the listening sessions were clear: we must address the high cost of housing, rising inflation, low wages, unaffordable healthcare, racism, and other institutionalized discrimination to end hunger. One attendee summed it up: “people need more freedom to enjoy a life where they’re not worried about the basics.” 

The full Feeding America Elevating Voices to End Hunger report outlines the aspirations of our communities and  anti-hunger policy recommendations—informed by people facing hunger prioritize dignity, increasing access, expanding opportunity and improving health. 

 

It’s more than just food

When Tanis arrived at the White House Conference, she and other anti-hunger advocates asked for key policy recommendations grounded in what our communities said they needed. In breakout sessions, the Administration heard directly from advocates about the tangled web that holds people back, as advocates called for removing red tape and streamlining access to benefits people are entitled to.  

We know hunger is not just a COVID-era problem, and it will take all of us to drive the change we need. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank applauds the Biden-Harris Administration for recognizing the intersectionality of these challenges. “The acknowledgement that there is no single culprit behind food insecurity was heartening,” said Tanis. 

This is our core philosophy: food is a basic human right, and we must address both the causes and consequences of food insecurity to end it. Doing so will require a multifaceted approach.  

 

Looking forward

“The White House Conference was a once-in-a-generation opportunity for the federal government to take concrete action to address hunger and its root causes,” said Tanis. “The impacts of hunger are compounding and pervasive and they do not affect us all equally. This was a powerful opportunity for the Food Bank to speak directly to federal lawmakers and advocate for meaningful policy change.” 

The last White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health resulted in game-changing legislation that introduced key policies like SNAP (food stamps) nationwide. We’re optimistic the same will come from this year’s Conference.  

Specifically, the Food Bank is advocating for: 

  • Protecting and strengthening SNAP (food stamps, called CalFresh in California). By far the most effective federal policy to end hunger, SNAP puts money for food directly into people’s pockets. 
  • Permanently expanding the Child Tax Credit to strengthen social safety nets for families. 
  • Increasing the minimum wage to offset skyrocketing income inequality and cost of living and adjusting eligibility guidelines for federal programs accordingly to avoid a “benefits cliff”. 
  • Protecting and strengthening The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which is a vital source of food support for food banks across the country. 
  • Improving access to federal food, human services, and health assistance programs such as SNAP, WIC, and Medicaid, so that eligible people aren’t missing out on vital benefits. 

“In the end, it’s not about what happened at the Conference, but what we do next and how,” said Tanis. “Solutions co-created with communities that experience hunger are how we solve food insecurity. I’m looking forward to continuing that within San Francisco and Marin, and I’m excited to see meaningful federal change in the months and years ahead.” 

Fighting Food Apartheid During the Pandemic

May 7, 2021

In the year since the start of the pandemic shutdown countless neighborhood food pantries have closed due to safety reasons and hundreds more shifted their distribution models or expanded grocery delivery to continue serving the community. 

Take St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church, which has operated a neighborhood pantry in the Bayview for over 28 years. Pre-pandemic the church was serving between 85 to 100 participants. When shelter-in-place went into effect, not only did the church have to stop indoor church services, with nowhere safe to host thembut they also had to close their doors for the weekly pantry. 

Mother Beverly Taylor, who ran the food pantry at St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church, was determined to keep serving her community. “We’re still involved and running,” said Mother Beverly. “Unfortunately, with this [pandemic] we have to keep going.” 

In order to do so they joined forces with the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition (SFAAFBC), alongside with 20 other churches, to deliver groceries to those who are homebound. 

Beverly knew finding a way to keep service going during the pandemic would help provide fresh, healthy food to those who couldn’t afford it and had nowhere else to turn.

Challenges in the Southeast 

Bayview–Hunters Point is a neighborhood with more convenience stores than grocery stores. In fact, there’s only currently one large-scale grocery store located on Williams Avenue–that is one grocery store for an 8.6 square mile neighborhood that is home to 106,731 people. 

At the same time, 37 percent of Bayview-Hunters Point residents, many of whom are Black/African American descent, live on less than 200 percent under the federal poverty level while 19 percent are at or below the federal poverty level. Over 40 percent of infants and youth live with families who earn below or at the federal poverty level. 

As Beverly explained, before their pantry opened there wasn’t a place anywhere for those in need of food assistance to turn to. “We saw that a lot of people really need the food but didn’t know where to go get it,” she said. “There wasn’t enough being distributed, so that’s how we got involved.” 

This problem is not unique to San Francisco and Bayview-Hunters Point. The USDA estimates 39 million people live in neighborhoods like Bayview-Hunters Point without adequate access to fresh, healthy food within a reasonable proximity. 

“When COVID shut everything down, not only was there an already food insecure population, but residents were also further impacted due to job losses as a result of various industries having to shut down,” said Program Coordinator Claudia Wallen, who coordinates with community partners in Bayview-Hunters Point. “So, it double affected that area, I think, because the community was already so underserved.” 

Call It What It Is: Food Apartheid 

Areas that lack access to fresh, healthy food are often referred to as “food deserts.” However, that term fails to acknowledge that a lack of food access, and the negative health outcomes it causes, disproportionately impact BIPOC communities.

By using the term “food apartheid,” we clearly acknowledge that neighborhoods deemed food deserts are predominantly in BIPOC communities. We also acknowledge that redlining (including supermarket redlining), which is the racially discriminatory practice of denying vital services and/or avoiding investment in specific neighborhoods based on the race/ethnicity of the residentsplays a huge role in food access. As a result, 19.1 percent of Black households and 15.6 percent of Latinx households experienced food insecurity in 2019 alone. Indigenous peoples also experience the shortest lifespan from diabetes as a result of lack of access to fresh healthy food in their communities. 

Food apartheids are a result of persistent structural and racial inequalities that prevent communities of color from accessing better socio-economic opportunities and essential services like access to fresh and healthy food, public transportation, public safety services, and nutrition education programs in K-12 public schools. 

In our own community, we see that the Visitacion Valley, Bayview-Hunters Point, Treasure Island, and Marin City neighborhoods have the least access to food and are some of the most cut off from public transportation. Many residents in these neighborhoods would have to rely on driving a car or commuting for at least an hour to areas like downtown San Francisco. These same neighborhoods are home to some of the highest percentages of Black/African American residents: 33 percent of the Bayview-Hunters Point population13 percent of the Visitacion Valley population and 24 percent of the Treasure Island compared to just 5 percent of San Francisco as a whole. Marin City has the largest Black population (up to 42 percent of the city’s population) in Marin County.

Community Partners Tackle Food Apartheid 

For the Food Bank, food for all means working closely with trusted community partners like St. Paul Tabernacle Baptist Church to ensure the Food Bank is supporting positive health outcomes. We also work with neighborhood partners to open new pantries in areas that both lack food access and where we can better serve communities disproportionately impacted by structural racism. In some cases, this means new types of partnerships like the one with the San Francisco African American Faith-Based Coalition (SFAAFBC) to deliver groceries to those who are unable to come out to pantries.

“Community organizations like SFAAFBC know the community well,” said Claudia“Grassroots, boots on the ground organizations are more trusted by community members and seen as a friend or fellow neighbor. This is why collaborating with them like the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is now doing is very important. 

What Food Means to the Community 

During each grocery delivery, Beverly personally calls the participants to let them know ahead of time when their groceries are arriving. “They’re so thankful because many of them are disabled, and we’re out there getting food to the people that need it,” she said.  

According to Claudia, the food means everything to the community. To Bayview-Hunters Point residents, it’s important to have access to the same healthy food that other, less marginalized communities get to enjoy and often take for granted. 

As long as there is a need Beverly plans to keep delivering, and the Food Bank plans to keep supporting her efforts to improve food access in areas that experience food apartheid throughout our community.

Newest Trump Administration Proposal Would Leave 3 Million Americans Hungry

August 1, 2019

Every day, our staff helps working parents, seniors, and adults with disabilities apply for the federal food stamp benefits they need to make ends meet.  That’s why we are we are deeply troubled by yet another attempt by the Trump Administration to take direct aim at our country’s most important and effective anti-hunger program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly Food Stamps; now called CalFresh in California).

Existing Policy Supports Working Families
This newest attack on the food stamps program targets a policy called Broad-Based Categorical Eligibility. This policy lets states adopt less restrictive requirements for household assets –  so families, seniors, and adults with disabilities can see modest increases in income and savings without losing their food stamps benefits.  The Administration calls this a “loophole” that permits those with higher incomes and assets to get public assistance who don’t necessarily need it.  But research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds that the policy actually helps support low-income, working families by preventing them from falling off the “benefit cliff” as their income rises slightly and allows them to start saving for the future.

Hunger Would Spike for 3 Million Americans
By changing the way states determine who qualifies for SNAP, the administration would effectively kick more than 3 million people – including thousands in San Francisco and Marin – off the SNAP program – basically telling these millions of vulnerable people that they’ll soon have to look elsewhere for vital nutrition every month.  This attack joins earlier proposals from the Administration to slash benefits for unemployed and underemployed adults, make massive cuts to the program in the federal budget, and move the goal line by arbitrarily changing the way poverty is calculated.  This is a coordinated attempt to erode our social safety net, and will succeed only creating a poorer and hungrier nation by denying Americans the assistance they need to lead healthy, productive lives.

Join Us and Fight Back

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank remains firmly committed to using our voice to elevate the importance of nutrition programs like SNAP which are a lifeline to our neighbors in need.  Please stand with us and raise your voice in opposition to this proposal.