For years, I have advocated for the basic needs of children in Alameda County. It’s quite simple, really. There is a mountain of evidence that demonstrates a clear linkage between consistent access to the essentials like food, health care, housing, and education, and a child’s future outlook.

Ensure the simple things and the kids are set, right? And then I actually became a mother.

Life quickly became a lot more complicated than my linear policy equation which I had been operating from for so long. My son, Ben, was born two months premature, which meant many more doctors’ visits and bills than I had anticipated. My husband then decided to go back to school to advance in his career, and to keep up with the rapid cost of living in the Bay Area. Now, one less paycheck for a while.

Suddenly, those essential building blocks for Ben’s future became more difficult to pick up and assemble. (I was not even that great at Tetris to begin with!)

For over 20 years, Alameda County Community Food Bank’s grassroots advocacy has connected legislators with our community in order to protect and strengthen food programs and other instrumental policies related to hunger and poverty. As a member of the Food Bank’s policy and partnerships department, I work at the intersection of policy, programs, and – most importantly – people.

This year, we are supporting Assembly Bill 842 to ensure that low income public preschool students are guaranteed access to at least one free or reduced meal per school day, just like other students in the K-12 system. It also restores the state’s supplemental funding for these meals, which had been cut in 2012 as a result of the Great Recession. Last year alone, Alameda County lost close to 100 Child and Adult Food Care Program providers due to this ongoing funding gap.

Access to just one preschool meal.

This bill sits with me longer. Its intent feels heavier. And, reconciling the fact that approximately 10,000 Alameda County children, ages 0-5, lives in poverty throws gas on my “fire” as a policy advocate, and perhaps even more so as a parent of a three-year-old.

School meals protect children from hunger and poverty, but they have a significant impact for their families as well. It is estimated that in Alameda County, a two-working parent family with two children needs $97,000 per year at minimum to pay for their very basic needs. That’s food, health care, housing, education. And don’t forget transportation and child care, too.

This policy equation was becoming more and more familiar to me. I even stress when Ben does not finish his plate of food, being reminded that our family is down to one income – even if it is temporary and a long term investment for getting ahead.

Guaranteed access to a preschool meal for my son would be very positive, in my expanding opinion.

Last week, Assembly Bill 842 was on the agenda for the Assembly Education Committee. I had the opportunity to meet the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Limòn, along with its sponsor, the California Food Policy Advocates, who have been working to close this harmful policy gap in our state’s early education system for over six years.

Alex (left), Assemblymember Monique Limòn, and Melissa Cannon from CA Food Policy Advocates

I decided to use this meeting to include some of my newer talking points with the Assemblywoman. Afterwards, she said, “Wow. That must mean a lot to be addressing this issue both on a professional and personal level, huh?”

Without hesitation, I responded earnestly in the moment, “Well, yes. It’s quite simple, really.”

My policy equation may be longer and certainly more nuanced than it once was. But, the answer remains the same: food is a basic human right.

Let’s make sure this value is a part of our early care and education system, especially at a time when our new governor has made young children a priority for California. I know I’ll continue to speak up for Ben with all his peers and their parents in both my mind and heart.

-Alex Boskovich, MSW / Government Relations Officer

About the author: 

Alex is a member of ACCFB’s Policy and Partnerships Department where she develops strategic collaboration with local government, private institutions, and organizations for ending hunger and promoting thriving communities. This includes analyzing the impact of state and federal policies on poverty, cultivating relationships with elected officials, and providing leadership capacity to grassroots coalitions. She is a proud mama bear of a 3-year-old, and is a semi-retired rugby player/emerging coach.