How can we provide access to nutritious food for the 5.4 million Californians1 who experience food insecurity?

What is food insecurity?

According to figures from 2014, there are 5.4 million Californians that are food insecure – meaning they have uncertain access to enough food to eat.1

This lack of access can mean:

  • not having enough food for an active, healthy life for household members, and
  • limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate foods.

There are 2.3 million children experiencing food insecurity in California. For children, not having enough of the right kinds of foods can have serious implications for a child’s physical and mental health, and academic achievement.2

The availability of locally-sourced, healthy food in a community, the price of food and where it can be purchased, and the capacity to store and prepare food all have an impact on food security.3 How do we connect individuals and families with the rich agricultural bounty of our State?

Quick Facts

  • 40% of low-income adults in California are unable to afford enough food.2
  • 1 in 4 California children don’t have enough food.2
  • In 2012, over 7 million Californians were eligible for CalFresh, but approximately 2.5 million did not participate, which translates to about 63 percent participation in California.4

The Opportunity

How might we build solutions that empower communities to access available resources and collaborate to better tackle food insecurity challenges?

There are many different resources (data, programs, services and partners) that are part of potential solutions to address food insecurity. Networks of convenience stores can become partners infusing neighborhoods with healthy, local foods. Partnerships can be built between farmers markets and small businesses. Technology and outreach could be leveraged to overcome barriers to access; streamlining applications, building awareness, making processes more responsive to a diverse and highly mobile population.

What’s being done?

Here are just a few examples of efforts underway at the state and local level to address this issue:

State Efforts

The CalFresh Program helps to improve the health and well-being of qualified households and individuals by providing them a means to meet their nutritional needs. CalFresh provides benefits to supplement household food budgets when individuals and families cannot afford enough to eat. By providing access to a nutritious, affordable diet, CalFresh benefits support productivity, promote health, and help prevent hunger.4

California state and local administrators have eliminated several long-standing barriers to CalFresh participation by simplifying policies, modernizing access with telephone and on-line applications, including some “same day service” options, and expanding outreach. Continuing efforts to improve access and utilization can increase nutrition and food security for recipients and promote statewide economic activity.4

Farm to Fork
The California Office of Farm to Fork is a project of the California Department of Food and Agriculture which is committed to reducing food insecurity and helping all Californians access healthy and nutritious California-grown food. The California Office of Farm to Fork connects individual consumers, school districts, and others directly with California’s farmers and ranchers, and provides information and other resources.

Local Efforts

Ending Hunger in Orange County
 Waste Not OC is a coalition of public health organizations, food suppliers and other professionals in Orange County working to eliminate hunger and reduce food waste, helping recover tons of foods and redirect them to individuals and families in need.

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Links and Resources


  1. Gunderson, C., A, D., Crumbaugh, A., Kato, M., & Engelhard, E. (2016). Map the Meal Gap 2016: Food Insecurity and Child Food Insecurity Estimates at the County Level. Retrieved August 22, 2016, from
  2. Office of Health Equity. (August 2015). Portrait of Promise: California Statewide Plan to Promote Health Equity and Mental Health Equity. California Department of Public Health, from
  3. California Department of Public Health. (June 2016) Designing Solutions to Address Food Insecurity Issues. Code for America, from
  4. Call, J., Shimada, T. (October 2015) Lost Dollars, Empty Plates: The Impact of CalFresh on State and Local Economies. California Food Policy Advocates.