May 13, 2022

Bolstering support for food security in ongoing pandemic

California produces nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables, yet 1 in 5 Californians currently struggles with food insecurity.

In 2020, when stay-at-home orders were in place across California due to the pandemic, the California Association of Food Banks was awarded a grant from Kaiser Permanente in Southern California to help feed people facing economic hardship. The grant — part of our Food for Life initiative — helped the nonprofit serve the growing needs of our communities while emphasizing the importance of equity.

According to the CAFB, California produces nearly half of the nation's fruits and vegetables, yet 1 in 5 Californians currently struggles with food insecurity. Entering the third year of the pandemic, CAFB continues to see unprecedented demand for food.

CAFB, which serves food to 10,000 individuals per month, saw its demand increase to over 35,000 people a month at the height of the pandemic. The grant included $100,000 in funding and provided CAFB with the opportunity to secure state funding for emergency food assistance, increase CalFresh enrollment, and expand the output of their Farm to Family program to meet growing demand.

With help from Kaiser Permanente, the organization was able to:

  • Deliver 250 million pounds of fresh and shelf-stable foods (approximately 208 million meals and 186 million pounds of fresh produce)
  • Provide more than 3 million food boxes to communities across the state, including special programs focusing on tribal communities, farmworkers, people impacted by wildfires, and older adults
  • Engage 50 partners to help about 25,000 households apply for CalFresh, California’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
  • Utilize CAFB's Emergency Food Box program to provide millions of meals to those in need during the pandemic

Funding provided to CAFB was part of a series of contributions from Kaiser Permanente to help residents throughout the state receive vital support services in response to the socioeconomic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic began, Kaiser Permanente has gifted more than $55 million in grants to nonprofits serving communities across Southern California.

Food banks surveyed by CAFB expect their programming and operations to remain at high levels even beyond the COVID-19 crisis.

"Food banks are experiencing double to even triple demand," said Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs for CAFB. "To put that in perspective, that means we are talking about 10 million hungry Californians."

Cheyne added that funding from Kaiser Permanente will help "keep local families nourished in the near term and provide resources that will allow them to thrive in the long term."

Kaiser Permanente's Food for Life initiative enhances access to healthy, affordable food by supporting community partners with food purchasing power, providing meal and nutrition distribution, and driving essential change in food system policy and research. This work aims to meet the growing needs of our members and communities, emphasizing the importance of equity.