The sound of cars funneling through the drive-through distribution could be heard in the background as Katherine Avila dialed into the virtual meeting with the assembly member.
It was a busy day at this food distribution site that ACCFB had set up at Oakport Street in Oakland. But Katherine, a member of the Development team, was able to take a break for several minutes – enough time to join the advocacy team on this important call. On the screen, the assembly member’s eyes widened as she listened to Katherine recount the stories of community members overcoming unprecedented challenges during the pandemic.
Katherine helps sort apples and distribute groceries at our drive-through distribution in Oakland
“People are hungry for food,” Katherine told her. “But they also hunger for human connection, for the need to feel that they’re part of our community. And, most importantly, not to be forgotten.”
Ending Hunger Once And For All
At ACCFB, serving community members directly by distributing nutritious food will always be a central part of our work. But as Katherine’s example illustrates, handing out food boxes helps relieve hunger today. That must always be coupled with advocacy, which is the only way we’ll be able to end hunger once and for all.
We know this is an enormous task, and success in advocacy comes in small steps. But we also know that advocacy works.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have won several hard-fought victories in protecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as CalFresh in California, and formerly known as “food stamps.” Whatever you call it, it’s the most effective anti-hunger program in the country.
Before the pandemic, our Helpreach team hosted events to help people apply for CalFresh benefits – like this one at UC Berkeley
But for the past four years, SNAP has been threatened by federal proposals that would reduce food benefits for hundreds of thousands of California households and cut off large numbers of people from the program altogether.
ACCFB fought these proposals relentlessly – and our work paid off. Two of these proposals have been officially withdrawn. A third policy, which makes it harder for immigrants who use government benefits – including SNAP – to stay in the country and secure residency is one step closer to being reversed.
Through our collective and consistent advocacy, we made sure these inhumane attacks were not successful in denying food assistance to people when they most needed it.
President Biden has also signed executive orders that will increase SNAP benefits for millions of people across the country, and boost Pandemic-EBT benefits for children by 15%.
As we celebrate these long-awaited, urgently needed actions, we must continue to remind policymakers that this is just a first step. Regardless of who is in office, ACCFB will continue to hold them accountable for advancing laws that address racial inequity and promote economic inclusion.
In 2019, our team and a group of community advocates took a bus to Sacramento on Hunger Action Day to meet with lawmakers
But this advocacy work is a collective effort that involves the entire ACCFB community. Join us and speak up with food bankers, clients, and community members to lawmakers.
We promise to continue serving the community on the frontlines, and we’re here for anyone who needs us. We also promise to continue dismantling the structures that cause poverty and hunger in the first place. It’s not an easy task or immediate win, but it works.