Supervisors Act to Address Food Insecurity with Creation of Food Equity Roundtable
Los Angeles, CA — Today, the LA County Board of Supervisors approved a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl to address food insecurity in LA County through the creation of a Food Equity Roundtable, which would – among other things – strengthen the County’s capacity for food distribution programs and focus on a food justice agenda.
“Food insecurity didn’t start with the pandemic and it won’t end when it is over,” said Supervisor Hahn. “We are creating this Food Equity Roundtable to bring government, non-profit, and philanthropic partners to come up with long-term solutions for creating a resilient, equitable, and sustainable food system that eliminates food insecurity in our county.”
Though food insecurity has been a growing problem within LA County for decades – with regular assessments conducted since 2002 showing that at least 20% of low-income households experience food insecurity in any given year – the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the scale of the problem. Now, at least 1 in 4 households in LA County struggles with food insecurity.
“A shockingly high number of County residents worry about feeding their families every week,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “That’s why we are establishing a Food Equity Roundtable so that public and private partners can come together to help us develop smart solutions that will ensure that the 1 in 4 County families who are food insecure will have enough to eat.”
“More than one in four County residents have experienced food insecurity during the pandemic, mostly from low-income communities of color,” said Gary Gero, LA County’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “The County has undertaken some important initiatives to alleviate hunger, including the distribution of more than 8 million pounds of food to people in need, but we can – and must – do more to address the root causes of hunger and create a truly equitable and resilient food system. This motion is a critical first step in bringing about systemic change.”
In June 2020, Hahn authored a motion with Kuehl to address this problem by instructing the County’s Chief Sustainability Office (CSO) to bring together County, city, non-profit, and philanthropic partners to develop a plan with cross-sector coordination that would combat – and ultimately end – food insecurity in LA County.
In response to Hahn’s motion, the CSO partnered with the California Community Foundation and the Annenberg Foundation to form a working group that reviewed best practices, assessed the County’s food insecurity situation, and gathered stakeholder input to make recommendations on how best to address the issue.
The resulting report back recommended that the County establish a two-year LA County Food Equity Roundtable that includes a diverse mix of public-private stakeholders, co-led by the County and its philanthropic partners, that would meet regularly to advance a mission of ending food insecurity by building capacity for LA County’s food distribution programs, promoting and strengthening access to food programs like Calfresh and Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children and advancing food justice overall.
Today’s motion directs the CEO’s Chief Sustainability Office to adopt the report’s recommendations and create the Food Equity Roundtable. The Roundtable will be tasked with giving semi-annual updates to the Board of Supervisors with policy recommendations, grant opportunities, and data on food needs and resources (including an examination of food inequities across the County) – all with the goal of ending food insecurity in LA County.
“Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and before, the ongoing visuals and reports of thousands of Angelenos waiting in long lines for food has shocked and saddened all of us,” said Wallis Annenberg, Chairman, President and CEO of the Annenberg Foundation, “Tackling this problem will require all of our energy now and long after the pandemic. Today’s effort moves us in the right direction – a community where no person goes hungry.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated the hunger crisis throughout LA County,” said Antonia Hernandez, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation. “The hard truth is that hunger permeated our County before the pandemic and has only grown as a result of it. But, hunger is a solvable crisis and this is an important step towards committing to solve it together.
Hahn and Kuehl’s motion also instructs the County’s Chief Executive Office and Chief Sustainability Office to explore the willingness of the County’s philanthropic partners to provide funding to support the Roundtable’s initial two-year incubation period — and longer if the Roundtable is recommended to continue.