The nation’s Farm Bill seems to finally be progressing through Congress. (If you’re not sure what the Farm Bill has to do with you or San Diego, see this earlier post.)  There are reliable indications that it could be voted on in the House of Representatives as early as this week, which is why anti-hunger advocates are sounding a final alarm to rally voters to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formally known as food stamps.

Clare Leschin-Hoar LogoThe program is facing $20 billion in cuts in the House’s version of the bill — igniting a contentious debate that put San Diego freshman Rep. Juan Vargas, who opposes the cuts, in the national spotlight after playing the Bible card last month.

Should the cuts go through, thousands of San Diego residents will feel them directly. Benefits that now amount to $1.50 per person/per meal would shrink to $1.30. To protest the cuts and illustrate how hard it is to make that $4.50 a day stretch, two dozen Democratic lawmakers have signed on to Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee’s SNAP Challenge and are tweeting their experiences. (None of San Diego’s representatives signed on for the challenge.)

Meanwhile, Feeding America, a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, just released its new national study, Map the Meal Gap, which shows 460,000 San Diego residents (that’s 1 in 5) are at risk of hunger — a great majority of them are children. And yet, according to the USDA’s Reaching Those in Need report, California has the lowest rate of participation among those eligible for SNAP (called CalFresh locally).  (Why is the participation rate so low? Some point to the fear that families may lose their immigration status.)

Jennifer Gilmore, executive director of Feeding America San Diego, says of the 460,000  San Diegans who are at risk of hunger, two-thirds qualify for federal assistance. The remaining 170,00 aren’t eligible for federal food programs, and rely on charities like Feeding America for nutrition support.

“But the solution to hunger is not solely a charitable response,” she said. “We need to make sure those programs [like SNAP] are protected and preserved.”


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Photo courtesy of Feeding America
Photo courtesy of Feeding America

The numbers are especially stark for San Diego children. According to the report, more than 162,000 local kids don’t know where their next meal is coming from. Regardless of how you feel about government-funded nutrition programs, that’s a sobering amount of hungry bellies out there, and the ramifications can be long-lasting, even after just one hunger experience.

“When children have access to food, young children who miss meals may overeat, leading to obesity and associated health problems,” said Dr. Shelia Gahagan, professor and chief, academic general pediatrics, child development and community health at the University of California, San Diego in a statement. “So food insecurity causes poor physical and mental health, and increases the chances that children will fail at school. Indeed, food insecure children suffer.”

    This article relates to: Active Voice, Food, News

    Written by Clare Leschin-Hoar

    Clare Leschin-Hoar is a contributor to Voice of San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @c_leschin or email her clare@leschin-hoar.com.

    5 comments
    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish

    These cuts will indeed affect SD. The tax serfs will have to pay a little less to subsidize the luxury food choices (sushi and lobster) of people like Jason Greenslate. I welcome these cuts.

    Of course, Clare would never allow the voice of the taxpayer to be heard in an article. That "voice" of San Diego must be kept quiet.

    Matt Finish
    Matt Finish subscriber

    These cuts will indeed affect SD. The tax serfs will have to pay a little less to subsidize the luxury food choices (sushi and lobster) of people like Jason Greenslate. I welcome these cuts.

    Of course, Clare would never allow the voice of the taxpayer to be heard in an article. That "voice" of San Diego must be kept quiet.

    David Hall
    David Hall subscriber

    As someone who has watched families (plural) run two carts of food through the checker, one for snap and one not, paying with hundred dollar bills to buy beer, cigarettes, frozen dinners, potato chips, soda, cakes, and whatnot, I call your 96 percent "accuracy rate" useless. And anybody using assistance probably shouldn't be buying filets or ribeyes either, but our brain trust in washington allows those. I won't begrudge a needy person that additional twenty cents a day, but please don't throw out phony numbers. The system is ripe with fraud and anybody with two eyes and a brain knows it. If we cleaned out the cheaters we could afford more than 1.50 per person per day for the truly needy.

    Daria Flores
    Daria Flores

    At what point do we say, "Enough"? We need to call on all our San Diego Representatives-- Issa, Hunter, Davis, Vargas and Peters --- vote NO on these cuts. In our continuing weak economy and when so many people are under employed, or have lost their houses, jobs, and unemployment benefits, is cutting food stamps the right thing to do? Do we want to have more people in San Diego go hungry? Are more of our children going to lack basic nutrition and go to school hungry? And don't buy the arguments about about waste and abuse of the program. The SNAP program is one of the most effective programs in government, with an accuracy rate over 96 percent. For a program that serves 47 million people per month, that is a remarkable accomplishment. Daria Flores

    David Hall
    David Hall

    As someone who has watched families (plural) run two carts of food through the checker, one for snap and one not, paying with hundred dollar bills to buy beer, cigarettes, frozen dinners, potato chips, soda, cakes, and whatnot, I call your 96 percent "accuracy rate" useless. And anybody using assistance probably shouldn't be buying filets or ribeyes either, but our brain trust in washington allows those. I won't begrudge a needy person that additional twenty cents a day, but please don't throw out phony numbers. The system is ripe with fraud and anybody with two eyes and a brain knows it. If we cleaned out the cheaters we could afford more than 1.50 per person per day for the truly needy.