Erin Middleton, Community Outreach Specialist & Jessy Gill, Policy Specialist
On Wednesday, May 22nd, over 400 advocates, soup kitchen volunteers, nutritionists, food bank supporters, and others made their annual journey to Sacramento to educate their legislators about hunger and encourage their support for anti-hunger legislation. The date came at a critical time in state and also national legislation as legislators consider bills and amendments related to the criminalization of poverty.
At the state level, the Hunger Action Day participants advocated for eight different bills (listed below), such as the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights, a Working Families Anti-Hunger Act, and the Successful Re-entry and Access to Jobs Act (SB 283, Hancock). California currently maintains a lifetime ban on people with prior drug-related felony convictions from receiving basic needs assistance, job training and employment support services through the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) program and CalFresh (known nationally as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and commonly known as food stamps). Banning basic needs assistance to the formerly incarcerated unjustly continues the punishment of thousands of people who have already served their sentences.
While concerned citizens rallied in Sacramento on Wednesday, Senators in DC continued debate on the Farm Bill. Yesterday, the Senate agreed on unanimous consent to an amendment introduced by Senator David Vitter (Louisiana) to permanently drop anyone ever convicted of a violent crime from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Laws that ban the formerly incarcerated from food assistance programs are poignant examples of the criminalization of poverty and disproportionately target low-income communities of color. If our goal as a nation is to reduce crime and achieve healthy, vibrant communities then we need to take care of each other. Countless studies have demonstrated that access to basic needs supports, like food and housing assistance, reduce crime and recidivism and contribute to the successful re-entry of people who have been incarcerated.
The halls of Sacramento and DC need to resound with the voices of our communities. Hunger Action Day was incredibly successful as dozens of conversations were had with legislators and staffers and numerous personal stories were shared to demonstrate the importance of the eight priority bills (listed below).
CFJC urges you to continue to voice your support for these pieces of anti-hunger legislation. Call those you have elected on both the State and National level to give voice to your values.
Hunger Action Day – Supported Bills
In the Assembly
Homeless Persons Bill of Rights (AB 5, Ammiano)
Increase the minimum wage (AB 10, Alejo)
Strengthening the connection between CalFresh and Medi- Cal (AB 191, Bocanegra)
Repeal of the Maximum Family Grant (AB271, Mitchell)
In the Senate