California Governor Gavin Newsom Announces the State to Expand Farm to Family Program, New Initiatives to Combat Food Insecurity

2 May

Governor Gavin Newsom, according to a press release, announced, Thursday, April 29, because of COVID-19, has added funding of $3.64 million to expand the Farm to Family program and has expanded CalFresh and the California Electronic Benefit Transfer programs.

CalFresh is a major program of the California Association of Food Banks, according to its website.

The added funding for the Farm to Family program included $2.86 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and $775,000 from donations to jump start a $15 million campaign to further support the program through the end of the year.

The Farm to Family program “works with growers and packers to provide fresh produce to food banks,” also according to the CAFB website.

CalFresh is “for people with low-income who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthy and nutritious food on the table,” according to the California Department of Social Services’ website.

The EBT program was expanded with a new pandemic-EBT for children and the program was also expanded to include online purchases from Amazon.com and Walmart.com and the governor also encourages other supermarkets to join.

Governor Newsom said, “Putting food on the table during this pandemic is hard for families on the brink. It’s in that spirit that we’re expanding our Farm to Family program while also working to connect low-income families with vital resources and financial support. We thank our farmers for stepping up to donate fresh produce to our food banks. And we want families struggling to access food to know we have your backs.”

COVID-19 has created unprecedented demand at California food banks. The demand increased in a year about 73 percent.  In April’s first three weeks, CalfFresh applications increased 140 percent over the same time last year and almost overnight, the markets for California farmers and rangers at the same time decreased 50 percent. The fresh produce supply chain has been hard it because perishable products must be harvested, shipped and consumed in a short time.  Nationally. specialty crop producers estimate losses so far at $5 billion in canceled or reduced contracts with California accounting for at least half.

California’s Farm to Family program, in which the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the CAFB partner to facilitate food donations from farmers and ranchers by supporting food production, processing and distribution of the food supply chain. CDFA received USDA’s approval to redirect $2 million in unused Specialty Crop Block Grant funds to the CAFB to offset the cost of picking, packing and transporting the donated produce. CDSS was awarded an additional $861,854 from the USDA Farm to Food Bank program.  Farm to Family partners with 41 food banks serving all 58 counties, handling logistics of packaging the food and communicating with food banks.

About 128 farmers and ranchers are donating to the CAFB and another 200 farmers have expressed interest in participating. In March, Farm to Family distributed 14.5 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and in April’s first three weeks distributed 18 million pounds of food. These funds will support the donation of 21 million pounds of fresh crops for the May

The donation of $775,000 for the CAFB is to help it meet the increased demand through the end of May. This funding comes from three donors: Kat Taylor, Farm Credit/CoBank and an anonymous donor.

The Governor also announced CalFresh recipients will receive the maximum benefits for May. The continued expansion of benefits was secured through a USDA waiver allowing households to receive the maximum benefit and continues the same benefit received in March and April. On April 12, just over 1.3 million households received nearly $223 million in additional CalFresh benefits with an average increase of $169 per household.

Families with children eligible for free or reduced-price meals are eligible to receive additional support due P-EBT. CDSS has identified roughly 3.8 million children who could qualify, and each eligible child could receive up to $365 in P-EBT benefits. P-EBT eligible children receiving CalFresh, Medi-Cal, or Foster Care benefits do not need to apply for P-EBT benefits and will receive a P-EBT card in the mail in early May. Other families receiving free or reduced lunches but not in CalFresh will need to complete a short online application, which will open in late May. The state estimates it will issue up to $1.4 billion for school closures extending from March 16 through June 12, 2020.

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