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Open Access Publications from the University of California

More Than 2.9 Million Californians Now Food Insecure -- One in Three Low-Income, An Increase in Just Two Years

  • Author(s): Harrison, Gail G.
  • Manolo-LeClair, George
  • Ramirez, Anthony
  • Chia, Y. Jenny
  • et al.

Compiled with data from the 2003 California Health Interview Survey, this study found that more than 2.9 million low-income adults in California lack sufficient resources to adequately put food on the table on a stable basis and thus are considered "food insecure." Among these food insecure adults, almost 900,000 suffer from episodes of hunger, while the remaining two million live precariously at risk for hunger month to month. In addition to the statewide findings, the report estimates food insecurity within each county and smaller-county consolidation, determining that food insecurity and hunger are found throughout California with prevalence of food insecurity varying significantly, from a low of 20.4% to a high of 45.2%. The prevalence of having experienced hunger also varied significantly across the state from a low of 3.7% to a high of 21.1%. The publication also examines food insecurity and hunger across many vulnerable populations, including ethnicity. Low-income African Americans and Latinos have higher proportions of food insecure adults (37.3% and 38.2%, respectively) than do Whites, 28.1%, while Asians, 23.8%, are least likely of all low-income groups to be food insecure. African American adults have the highest proportion reporting episodes of hunger, 13.8% compared to 12.1% of Whites and 9.7% of Latinos. Asians have the lowest proportion of low-income adults reporting food insecurity with hunger, only 3.9%. The authors also make several policy recommendations to address the growing problem of food insecurity, including increasing household incomes by increasing the minimum wage and expanding low-income housing to help reduce the competition between household economic pressures, such as affordable housing, child care, and health care, and adequate nutritious food. Recognizing tight budgets facing State government, the authors recommend expanding efforts to increase participation in Federal food assistance programs such as the Food Stamp program. Drawing down federal resources to reduce food insecurity in California should be a top priority.

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