My name is Soleil, and I am a junior at San Diego High School. I was adopted from Ethiopia when I was 2 by American parents. I didn’t consider myself an immigrant for a long time, and still don't because I don’t remember coming to the United States, but I still feel different because I’m Black. Being Black, Ethiopian and raised by white parents shaped my values that we’re all connected, and need to help each other, not just the people within our own community. This is why I got involved in the Food4All campaign through the Youth Advisory Council.
My community is diverse — in thought, religion and ethnicities. The fact we have many people who are immigrants also makes it unique. While there are some wealthy people, there are more people that don’t have enough money to afford food. I can see that reflected in the students I go to school with. Everyone at my school has access to free food, yet I notice a shortage of popular foods since students don’t have any other options other than to eat at school.
There are various reasons that immigrants in my community can’t access food. Some people can’t work because of their immigration status, and therefore don’t have enough money to afford food. Even if they are able to get CalFresh, it is only accepted at certain places, most of which do not have culturally appropriate foods. And, since they already feel out of place, many immigrants don’t feel comfortable asking for help. If CalFresh were inclusive, immigrants would feel less isolated. They would know that our country cares about them, and wants them to be connected to the communities they are a part of.
I am involved in Food4All because it is a way to take action and make sure that impacted people have the power to drive change. If Food4All passes, the barriers that divide immigrants and non-immigrants would disappear, and immigrants would feel welcome and safe in their communities. Regardless of status, every immigrant has their own story, and deserves to have [basic needs like] fresh food. California is a leader in change and progress. If the state passes Food4All, America would follow its lead.
Hearing the personal stories of those who are directly impacted — those that sell food, but can’t provide for their own families, for example — has given me a deeper understanding of why this campaign is important, and how urgent it is. I want policymakers to see that this campaign is not one dimensional — that it is not about one person and that immigrants are not a monolith. Food insecurity is way too common. It shouldn’t be normal for any of us to know someone who is struggling with this food insecurity. We need to advocate for people who are overlooked.