Over the last three years during the COVID-19 pandemic, California increased the benefit amounts for CalFresh, the federal program formerly known as food stamps. Despite skyrocketing inflation and untenable increases in basic food costs, this temporary boost in benefits ended in early April. Now, a $500 million per month reduction in CalFresh benefits is precipitating a hunger crisis in California, affecting 5 million families across the state.
With $82 less in their pockets each month, more and more families are scrambling to figure out how to make ends meet. On the One Degree platform, we observed a 10% increase in searches for food-related resources in March, just before the California benefits increase expired.
Unfortunately, another benefits cliff is approaching for college students.
Last year, California expanded CalFresh eligibility to meet a growing need for vital food assistance among students. But this expansion is about to end due to the rollback of the pandemic emergency. College students have until June 10th to be considered for CalFresh benefits under the pandemic-era guidelines, enabling those who are eligible to receive $281 per month for food and groceries. However, if they miss this deadline, their need will be determined under pre-pandemic guidelines that are much narrower and offer much lower benefit amounts.
The biggest challenge is that many eligible students are unaware of the upcoming changes and the June 10th deadline.
On the bright side, college students across communities are taking outreach into their own hands. They are holding events and raising awareness to find those who need assistance, letting them know that help is available, and supporting the application process. This grassroots effort reminds me of how One Degree began.
In the coming weeks, we will be reaching out to our student community as well, reminding them of the June 10th deadline before time runs out.
At the same time, we want to speak to the need for the future to be different. Every student ought to be able to study without scrambling for food, housing, or healthcare. But to create this future, we need to raise awareness of this issue and create a more comprehensive and coordinated support system.
Let’s join forces to make this vision a reality by increasing our advocacy, raising awareness about food insecurity, and supporting the development of innovative infrastructure that can deliver vital support to people who need it most.
If you’d like to learn more, check out the resources below. We want to hear your thoughts on how One Degree—and our community—can collectively respond to the hunger crisis before us.
Learn more about the California hunger crisis, including the devastating impact that CalFresh benefits reductions are expected to have on college students and families. By sharing these resources, we hope to inspire both advocacy and action.
- “California is Facing a Hunger Crisis in 2023” (California Food Bank Association)
- “A Quick Guide To Changes To College Student Eligibility For CalFresh” (LAist)
- “As CalFresh College Eligibility Narrows In June, Students Are Stepping Up To Help Peers Navigate The Enrollment” (LAist)
- “Increase of Families in Need After CalFresh Ends Emergency Benefits” (NBC Los Angeles)
- “Hunger crisis expected in California as end of COVID-19 emergency prompts cuts to food security programs” (FOX5, KSWB San Diego)
- “Food insecurity worsens among low-income Angelenos as emergency boost to CalFresh program expires” (USC News)
- “California’s Nutrition Safety Net” (Public Policy Institute of California)
Would you like to share ideas or convene with One Degree about how we can respond to the hunger crisis as a community? If so, we want to hear from you! Send us a message here with the subject “Responding to Hunger.”