By Ezer Pamintuan, Policy Advocate
“What are we building for when all this is over?”
I shared this question with my teammates as an expression of hope, but also as an attempt to convince myself to be hopeful. As I gazed at their faces on the Zoom screen, the phrase, “when all this is over” felt more like a dream than an event we could eagerly anticipate.
Over the past two years, we have learned to wait. We have waited to see our loved ones again, waited to engage in activities that provide meaning and vitality, and waited for a time when we no longer feel anxiety simply from gathering with our own communities. I have waited to be able to see my fellow Food Bankers in person, rather than through a virtual barrier of glass and pixels. But while we have become familiar with the pain of waiting, we have also learned that there are things we cannot afford to wait for.
Ripping Off the Façade
The COVID-19 pandemic and recession revealed another, deeper crisis. Though some people have lived with the privilege of ignoring it, this is a truth that too many Black and Brown people have known their whole lives: Our economic system, which everyone relies on for food, medicine, and housing, was built on systems of racism, concentrating power and resources in the hands of a few.
The pandemic exposed this inequity in stark relief, as some communities were impacted more than others. White people are less likely to get sick and die of COVID-19, and less likely to be laid off or have their hours cut.
As the façade over these deep inequities was ripped off, we knew that ACCFB had to be honest and explicit as well. Living through a lockdown taught us patience; but when it comes to eradicating hunger by naming the inequities at its roots, we will not wait any longer.
Why Hunger Exists
ACCFB exists for one reason: to achieve a hunger-free community.
Being serious about ending hunger requires us to be clear about why hunger itself exists in the first place. Some of us experience hunger and poverty because racist systems have been built and continue to be maintained such that power and resources are inequitably distributed.
Therefore, the only way to eradicate hunger is by redistributing power and resources equitably. ACCFB works toward this goal by uplifting community power to pass policies that break up the racialized concentration of wealth and resources causing hunger and poverty.
In the face of this reality, this year we put together the boldest policy agenda yet. We challenged our staff, volunteers, and community of supporters: What will it take to eradicate hunger once and for all?
We took a major step towards this goal with the historic victories in the State Budget approved this summer, which implemented major programs and reforms for which ACCFB and our community advocates have been fighting for years, including:
- Improved Access to CalFresh – simplifies CalFresh applications for older adults and people living with disabilities.
- Dignity for SSI Recipients – an increase of the State Supplementary Payment (SSP) grant by $36/month, restoring half the cuts from 2009. The intention is to restore the remaining 50% in the 2022-23 budget year.
- Food For All Campaign – nutrition benefits for those ineligible for CalFresh solely due to immigration status.
- Funding for Food Banks – almost $300 million for emergency food boxes, food bank climate and disaster resilience, and capacity enhancements.
Big Steps in 2021: Universal School Meals & Coming Out Against the Filibuster
We sometimes hear that eradicating hunger is an “aspirational” or “abstract” goal, but this summer we proved that ending hunger is entirely within our power. With the implementation of the Universal School Meals Program, California is one of the first two states in the nation to guarantee free breakfast and lunch to all K-12 public school students.
This victory will have an immediate impact on the lives of millions of children and their families. We have effectively eradicated hunger in California public schools, thereby demonstrating that the eradication of hunger within whole systems is possible if we have the will and community power to make it happen.
To do this, communities need to be able to express power through government. Every voice must be heard. This is the meaning and purpose of democracy, which is so crucial to the fight to eradicate hunger. That’s why ACCFB took the bold step this year of advocating for the abolition of the filibuster. The filibuster concentrates political power in the hands of a minority and has always been an essential tool in the obstruction of racial and economic justice.
Our team of advocates is bigger than ever before. Not only do we have an eight-person Policy & Partnerships team at ACCFB, but we have a growing community of partner agencies, volunteers, and donors eager to raise their voice in the movement to eradicate hunger.
We are still charting that course today. Will you join us on this journey? Visit our advocacy page to learn more about ACCFB’s advocacy work, sign up for updates, and become a volunteer. With the 2022 midterm elections just around the corner, we need all hands on deck.
What are we building for when this is over?
Together, we will build not only a hunger-free community, but a truly equitable one.