The California Association of Food Banks team arrived early on an unusually cold morning in Sacramento to set up for Capitol Action Day on April 18. They arranged tables, chairs, and breakfast under the tent just in time for the arrival of food bank members, who grabbed cups of hot tea and coffee to battle the chill. CAFB Executive Director Sue Sigler welcomed the attendees and thanked them for their presence, sharing that “our work has never been so important.”
CAFB Director of Government Affairs Andrew Cheyne then walked the crowd through talking points and answered questions about the 2018 state policy agenda. The major budget asks include $20.6 million for food banks to purchase California-produced food and a one-time request for $25 million to help food banks make infrastructure improvements. CAFB-sponsored legislation includes returning SSI/SSP to 100% of the Federal Poverty Level, modernizing communications for CalFresh and other social services, and making changes to CalFresh and CalWORKS in order to boost benefits.
Then Patricia Romero-Aguasvivas, a CalFresh recipient from Contra Costa County and Food Bank of Contra Costa Solano volunteer, shared how she came to be on the program after losing her job of almost 30 years. She reminded the crowd that real people are behind the numbers, people who rely on benefits to survive. (Watch her story here). Inspired by her words, food bankers set off for their meetings with California legislators.
The group reconvened at noon for remarks from two anti-hunger champions. Dr. Joaquin Arambula, Assembly Member for District 31, spoke first. He shared his experience with people coming to his emergency room just to get a sandwich, and how more people needed services at the end of the month when food stamps ran out. Those signs indicated that “the safety net is not sufficient to take care of our community” and motivated him to advocate with us, including as the author of several pieces of legislation that will strengthen the nutrition safety net.
Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of the 80th Assembly District, also addressed the crowd. She is a strong supporter of the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank and Feeding San Diego because she believes deeply in the mission to feed people, which coincides with her efforts to support workers. She appreciates how when the working poor can’t put food on the table, food banks bridge the gap, “regardless of who people are.” She vowed to continue supporting our legislative agenda and pushing the issues forward because she is grateful for what food banks do every single day.
The afternoon featured a produce pack, thanks to the coordination of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Legislators and staff (including Arambula, Gonzalez Fletcher, Assembly Member Sharon Quirk Silva, Assembly Member Devon Mathis, and a group of staff from Speaker Rendon’s office) packed potatoes and onions that will be distributed to local families in need. The crowd seemed electric with the satisfaction of helping others, and it was even caught on film by a local news crew.
Overall, it was an extremely productive day that left the group hopeful about its efforts to end hunger in California.
Photographs by Daniela Ogden