- Author: Natalie M Price
UC Cooperative Extension Advisor Natalie Price co-chaired a food security symposium with 85 organizations focused on collective action in Los Angeles. 86% of those surveyed increased their understanding of policies affecting food insecure individuals & food assistance programs.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) considers a household to be food insecure if it experiences either: low food security – reports a reduction in the quality, variety, or desirability of diet, or very low food security – reports of multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake. According to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, in southeast Los Angeles County 32.4% of households with incomes under 300% of the Federal Poverty Level are considered food insecure, approximately 79,000 individuals. Yet 1 in 3 potentially eligible individuals in Los Angeles County are not receiving CalFresh Food (formerly Food Stamps) assistance benefits. There is a need to increase participation in the CalFresh Food program, and to connect those who are not eligible to programs such as WIC, summer meals, and the charitable food network. Greater success can be achieved by collaborating across sectors to identify clients in need, coordinate their referral to appropriate services, and bring resources to trusted schools and community sites. This is especially timely as confusion over eligibility based on immigration status has precipitated distrust and declining enrollment rates across many food assistance programs.
How UC Delivers
UC ANR Cooperative Extension Advisor Natalie Price co-chaired an effort to hold a food security symposium for service providers in southeast Los Angeles County in partnership with a coalition of local government and non-profit organizations. Held in May 2019 in honor of CalFresh Awareness Month, the symposium brought together 98 individuals representing more than 85 direct service organizations (nonprofits, education, health care) serving southeast Los Angeles. The symposium aimed to define and examine the scope of food security, provide an overview of food assistance resources, increase understanding of current policies impacting food security, and create opportunities for collaboration among organizations. Price moderated a panel discussion where local program representatives spoke about program eligibility, increasing outreach, and donating food waste. Policy experts addressed immigration issues and described how to contact your local representative to advocate for anti-hunger legislation. At the end of the symposium, participants engaged in a round table discussion and call to action, where they brainstormed ways their organizations can collectively support efforts to reduce food insecurity.
Seventy eight of the 98 symposium participants completed a pre/post evaluation to assess knowledge gain:
- 67% of respondents increased their understanding of the definition and scope of food insecurity
- 65% of respondents increased their awareness of the food resources available to help food insecure individuals/families in their area and know how to access them
- 86% of respondents increased their understanding of current state and federal policies affecting food insecure individuals and food assistance programs
Participants wrote that as a result of the symposium they made new connections, plan to educate colleagues and clients, and intend for their organizations to become CalFresh application assisters. When asked what they would apply from what they learned, respondents elaborated:
- "[I will] provide additional information that I've learned today to my patients and encourage increased enrollment/participation."
- "I am aware of new initiatives to help all those who qualify access benefits related to food security with appropriate information and regulations."
- "Information about immigration will be shared to the people of the community, for instance, information about Public Charge (federal policy negatively affecting food insecure immigrant populations)."
In addition, the Southeast Los Angeles Food Security Coalition who hosted the event tracked an increase in its membership as a result of the symposium. All evaluation results and notes from the action-oriented brainstorming session will be used to plan follow up projects and events.
Research shows that applying a collective impact model can achieve greater results than individual action alone, particularly when addressing complex social problems such as food security. By bringing together 85 different organizations, building a common agenda, and creating the infrastructure for continued communication, this event laid the groundwork for a successful model of community change. In this way, UC ANR improves food security, contributing to the public value of safeguarding abundant and healthy food for all Californians.