Even with the help Congress has provided, families with young children are still running out of food

Findings From a Statewide Survey

Published on Feb 16, 2021 by Melissa Cannon


In the fall of 2020, Nourish California engaged Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) to conduct statewide research that would help illustrate the experiences of individuals and families across California, particularly in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In this brief, we use data from a statewide representative opt-in survey and focus groups of Californians with household incomes below $50,000 conducted October 20 - November 13, 2020, to illustrate the experiences of parents with children under the age of five. We find the following:


Over half of parents with young children reported they had their hours cut back, wages reduced, or had to leave their job to provide care for their family during the pandemic

Young Children, Fact Sheet Charts #1

"I had to stop working to take care of my children. Like I said, who is going to help my five year old? This is my new job. I had to leave my house cleaning job to stay home with my children. There was no other choice."

Focus Group Participant

4 out of 5 have worried about running out of food in the past 12 months and the vast majority have run out of food before they had money to buy more.

Young Children, Fact Sheet Charts #2

"Financially, in the next couple of weeks, he gets his last unemployment, and we’re like okay, we have to start dipping into our savings, you know, we do have a savings. A little bit that will get us through with hopefully something, he’ll find some kind of temporary something, you know. He’s stressed out, I’m stressed out."

Focus Group Participant

CalFresh, WIC, and free or reduced-price school meals were highly valued among those who received them.

Young Children, Fact Sheet Charts #3

"Shortly after the pandemic started, I started taking care of my grandchildren.  My daughter gave me the authorization to pick up the children's WIC and her card to buy food.  It is a big help that they give me milk and cereal and they give me vegetables.  The truth is that if we didn't have that type of help, I'm not sure how we would be making it."

Focus Group Participant

But even with the help Congress has provided so far, the vast majority of parents still have some level of need for additional money to buy food.

Young Children, Fact Sheet Charts #5


The COVID-19 public health and economic crisis is bigger than any other we’ve seen in our lifetimes — leaving too many California families struggling to afford food. The greatest risk right now is doing too little and waiting too long. The Biden-Harris American Rescue Plan, currently being considered by congress will help address the high levels of hunger and hardship we are seeing across our state through investments in SNAP, WIC, economic relief for families, and funding for schools and child care. Nourish California urges the California congressional delegation to quickly pass the legislation. But alone, it will not address the significant needs being faced by young children in California. State policymakers must help fill the gaps in federal relief and expand nutrition assistance to families with young children by increasing funding for child care meals, including all immigrants in food assistance, and investing in school meals for all kids (schools can leverage the Community Eligibility Provision to also serve free meals to kids in district-run preschool and child care).


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