New Food Relief Programs Aim to Increase Food Access and Support Workers, Farms

Posted on Wednesday, May 13th, 2020 by
Photo Credit: USDA NRCS

While millions register for unemployment benefits and demand from food banks increases exponentially, California farmers and ranchers face serious economic realities, including a market decrease of 50 percent since the crisis began, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA). To address food access concerns for many hard hurt during the sudden loss of jobs and the economic challenges for those in the food system including farmers, farmworkers and to restaurant workers, Governor Gavin Newsom recently announced three new relief programs.

Farm to Family Program: Farm to Food Banks

The governor announced $3.64 million in new funding to expand the state’s existing Farm to Family Program at the end of April. The program is a partnership between CDFA and the California Association of Food Banks. CDFA estimates that 128 farmers and ranchers currently donate to food banks through the program and an additional 200 farmers expressed interest in participating. Participating farmers receive a 15 percent tax credit. CDFA projects the new funds will facilitate the donation of 21 million pounds of fresh produce to food banks for the month of May. The new funding includes contributions from the USDA and philanthropy organizations. Additional private donors also aim to raise $15 million to help support the program through the end of the year. 

Great Plates Delivered: Home meals for seniors

On April 24, the Governor announced the launch of “Great Plates Delivered”, a new meal delivery service for California’s vulnerable older adults. The program aims to help seniors and other adults who are at high-risk for COVID-19 by delivering three meals a day from participating restaurants. The program also aims to keep restaurant workers employed.

The Governor placed the onus of setting up the new program on local governments and tribes with the state providing only minimal preparation and guidance to local administrators. Under the governor’s plan, local governments pay restaurants up to $66 per day per senior to cook and deliver three nutritious meals. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will reimburse 75 percent of the meal costs, the state of California will reimburse 18.75 percent, which leaves cities and counties accountable for covering 6.25 percent of program costs. However, FEMA funding runs out on June 10th. This leaves local administrators scrambling to launch a complex program in a short period of time with limited dollars. Read more from Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF) on this

High Road Kitchens: Restaurants to Community Kitchens 

In a recent announcement, the California Labor & Workforce Development Agency revealed a public-private partnership with One Fair Wage to support the High Roads Kitchen initiative, which seeks to rebuild the service industry equitably and sustainability while also providing relief to those in need. The initiative repurposes independent restaurants into community kitchens that provide food on a sliding scale to low-wage workers, health care workers, and others who are struggling as a result of COVID-19. To meet the initiative’s equity and sustainability goals, the restaurants must also commit to providing equitable wages and employment practices as they rehire their employees and re-purpose themselves as community kitchens. With a combination of state, local and philanthropic funds, the initiative provides grants and subsidies to participating restaurants. Over time, the program should sustain itself by using revenue from paying customers to subsidize low and no-cost meals for fellow community members. 

Make the Farms Connection with Relief Programs

It will be critical for new programs, like Great Plates and High Roads Kitchen, to support food purchases from area farms as much as possible to provide some economic relief for those hard-hit farms. As these food relief programs continue to evolve CalCAN, with our partners, will continue to advocate for the inclusion of small and midscale producers and socially disadvantaged farmers in the state’s COVID-19 response efforts.

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