San Francisco must spend more than $13 million in the next fiscal year to ensure all residents have access to nutritious food by 2020.
The money is needed to address myriad challenges facing San Francisco residents who struggle to eat an adequate number of meals daily and maintain nutritious diets, according to The City’s Food Security Task Force, which provided the latest efforts of organizations to eliminate hunger at a Board of Supervisors committee hearing Wednesday.
Building on the efforts of the task force, which was established in 2005, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved in December 2013 a resolution setting a goal to end hunger by 2020.
“We need to maintain and expand the investments that have been made in nutrition programs over the last two budget cycles and do even more to reach our goal by 2020,” said Teri Olle, Food Security Task Force chair and SF-Marin Food Bank policy director.
Olle was among those who attended the board’s Budget and Finance Committee hearing Wednesday to request $13.3 million for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Of the total, $11.4 million is to expand service for home-delivered meals, delivery of groceries and the serving of lunch meals at various locations like senior centers.
The hearing, called by Supervisor Eric Mar, comes as Mayor Ed Lee is preparing to submit by June 1 a proposed city budget to the board for review and adoption.
One in four, or more than 200,000 residents, are estimated to not have the food they need to remain healthy, putting them at risk for mental and physical health ailments like depression and diabetes. That number is based on those living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line, which for a family of three is a household income of about $40,000.
As The City has invested more in recent years to address hunger, there are clear service gaps. For example, San Francisco has a network of about 200 food pantries, serving 100,000 residents every week. But 38 locations cannot meet the demand.
Home Delivered Meals
This fiscal year, The City is spending $7.7 million to deliver meals to 5,050 seniors and those with disabilities, but analysis shows there are another 4,972 who need the service. The task force recommends increasing funding every year by $4 million to serve the total 10,000 clients in need by 2020.
Of the 10,030 seniors or disabled adults who could benefit from a grocery delivery program, 2,831 are currently being served. The task force recommends spending $2.8 million on the program next year. It would cost $6.9 million to serve all 10,030.
Ensuring everyone who can qualify for CalFresh, or food stamps, is receiving the benefit remains a challenge. Only half of those eligible, 54,000 residents, are enrolled, receiving an average of $227 a month for food, according to Tiana Wertheim, a CalFresh analyst for the Human Services Agency.
The agency has improved the application process, however. The wait time to meet with someone is now 10 minutes.
“Two years ago they could be waiting as much as four hours,” Wertheim said.
The funding recommendation of $726,188 is to increase enrollment efforts.
Single-Room Occupancy Units
The task force is also recommending $675,000 to launch pilot programs at two SRO sites for such things as installation of cooking appliances, since many units in the Tenderloin lack kitchens, and to begin offering cooking classes.
Last year, The City launched a program where qualifying residents in the Tenderloin, SoMa and Bayview neighborhoods receive up to $10 per week in vouchers to buy from participating corner stores fruits and vegetables.
The program has since enrolled more than 1,000 persons and would expand under recommended funding of $400,000. The program is designed to reach those who are low-income residents on Social Security income but since they receive Social Security are ineligible for Calfresh.
Mar said that the investment plan puts The City on track to achieve “a hunger-free San Francisco by the deadline of 2020.”