July 7, 2020

Supervisors Take Aim At Food Insecurity

Los Angeles, CA — Today the LA County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl aimed at addressing the ongoing issue of food insecurity in LA County by bringing together County, city, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners.

Food insecurity in LA County has skyrocketed due to the economic fallout of the pandemic and government safety net programs designed to reduce food insecurity have experienced challenges in reaching and enrolling participants quickly due to overwhelming demand. In April, Calfresh alone saw its LA County enrollments triple from the same time last year.

In response, LA County’s Emergency Operations Center in March launched the Food Security Branch within the Department of Public Social Services and named the County’s Chief Sustainability Officer to lead this effort. In the months and weeks since, the Food Security Branch has facilitated the distribution of food to thousands of LA County households, provided more opportunities for CalFresh enrollment, and developed new approaches for meeting the food-related needs of vulnerable populations.

Moreover, dozens of new charitable efforts have sprung up to provide food during the pandemic; community-based organizations, municipalities and school districts providing other vital services have pivoted to become food pantries, Grab & Go sites and food delivery services. However, there are limited means for collecting and compiling information about these various responses to food insecurity, limiting collective understanding of which needs are or are not being met, and what additional initiatives or changes within the food system would best address the remaining unmet need.

“Food insecurity was a problem in LA County long before the pandemic hit but now we are seeing how badly we need a long-term system that quickly gets food to the people who need it most,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn. “We were able to make this happen when the COVID-19 crisis started by working closely with our County, city, nonprofit, and philanthropic partners. Now, we need to keep working together to make our food distribution system smarter, more effective and more resilient – so that we don’t face the same issues during the next crisis as we did during this one.”

Today’s motion asks the County’s Chief Sustainability Officer to collaborate with the Department of Public Health, Department of Health Services, Department of Public Social Services, Department of Workforce Development Aging and Community Services, Office of Education, the Center for Strategic Partnerships, other cities and municipal agencies, and representatives from the non-profit and philanthropic sectors to use lessons learned during COVID-19 to develop a plan post-COVID for ensuring ongoing and effective cross-sector food system coordination and collaboration – with the goal of reducing and eventually eradicating food insecurity in LA County.

The motion asks for a report back within 90 days or within 30 days of the deactivation of the Food Security Branch, whichever is sooner, with a strategy that includes:

  1. Exploring existing best practices, elevating current efforts, and including recommendations to ensure ongoing cross-sector food system coordination and collaboration that will continue to address food insecurity while preparing for future disasters or economic shocks that will increase food system resiliency. This report back should be developed with a philanthropic co-lead and contain:
    a. A plan that includes a cross-sector and a regional coordinating committee consisting of representatives from major cities (working with Los Angeles County’s Disaster Management Area Coordinators to help coordinate and identify representatives), foundations, non-profits and community-based organizations – and proposed activities aimed at addressing food insecurity both immediately and in the long-term;
    b. A strategy of coordination and engagement with food system stakeholders, which also captures the existing work that has taken place within Los Angeles County;
    c. A list of shared short-term goals that food system stakeholders will work toward during the County’s/region’s economic recovery period; and
  2. Developing a plan for continuing to engage cross-sector food system stakeholders on regular basis after the County has recovered from COVID-19;
  3. Identifying shared long-term goals, potentially including but not limited to elimination of food insecurity, and for developing data-driven methods to achieve those goals, such as changes in practice and/or in policy; and
  4. Helping determine the long-term placement of this food security work within Los Angeles County.

“According to a USC tracking poll, more than 10% of our County residents are worried that they will run out of food,” said Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. “Three months ago, the County worked quickly to organize a food system to meet immediate needs as the spread of COVID-19 led to job loss and a related increase in food insecurity. This motion recognizes that food insecurity will continue to be a challenge for many months and calls for the establishment of a coordinated system that includes County departments, local nonprofits and philanthropic institutions to ensure that anyone who needs food in the months to come will be able to access it.”

“Food insecurity in Los Angeles is at an all-time high and, like so many injustices, it is our Black and Latinx communities that are disproportionately affected,” said Gary Gero, LA County’s Chief Sustainability Officer. “We encourage everyone who is hungry to reach out to the County to sign up for food assistance.”

“Food insecurity has increased with the current economic conditions and is projected to stay at an elevated level for the next several months,” said California Community Foundation President and CEO Antonia Hernandez. “CCF is currently funding the expansion of food security programs to help alleviate the effects of the crisis but the County needs a multi-sector effort to ensure systemic changes leading to lasting and scalable impact.” In a joint effort with the Weingart Foundation and Annenberg Foundation, the CCF has been a leading partner to LA County in the fight agains

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