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News > U.S.

California's Food Insecurity Deepens as Pandemic Aid Fades

  • People at a food bank in California, U.S., 2023.

    People at a food bank in California, U.S., 2023. | Photo: X/ @SCCAZeroWaste

Published 15 December 2023

The U.S. Census Bureau's data showed record-high jumps in poverty across all age groups.

The California Association of Food Banks released a report showing that more people in California are struggling to put food on the table.


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California produces nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables, yet more than 3.1 million households, including 1.1 million with children, in the state currently experience food insecurity.

This translates to nearly one in four families, or nearly one in three families with children, who are facing uncertain access to nutritious meals.

Californians are buying and eating less than what they need and relying on cheaper processed foods. Those with children are especially struggling.

California households are making tradeoffs between food and other expenses. Despite cutting back on food, many are still unable to make the rent or afford clothing or school supplies for their children.

Food insecurity has far-reaching consequences, impacting the physical and mental health of individuals and communities.

Children facing hunger are more likely to experience developmental delays and struggle in school. Adults experiencing food insecurity often face chronic health problems and increased stress.

The new data represented a significant increase from pre-pandemic levels and a stark reversal of the gains made during the height of the pandemic when federal aid programs were boosted. Black and Latino households are suffering disproportionate impacts.

Poverty and low incomes are the main drivers of food insecurity. The U.S. Census Bureau's data in September showed record-high jumps in poverty between 2021 and 2022 across all age groups and household types in the country.

Experts attribute much of the intensified food insecurity to the expiration of pandemic-era economic support measures and the end of some safety net programs.

California has been the most expensive state to live in due to its high cost of living. Inflation has further exacerbated the situation, as prices surged, and food insecurity spiked last year.

California's food security advocates are stepping up efforts to expand spending on safety net programs; however, their drive faces economic challenges as the state faces a record-high deficit of US$68 billion in the 2024-25 fiscal year.

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