Understanding Food Insecurity and Hunger in California

Published on Feb 5, 2024 in CalFresh, State Legislation, WIC

Key Findings from Focus Groups and Surveys Conducted in October 2023

Key takeaways

Food insecurity in the golden state continues to persist despite the efforts of state and federal benefit programs. Middle and low-income Californians continue to worry about and experience running out of money to buy food. In 2023, Nourish California partnered with Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates (FM3) to identify the barriers affecting the well-being of Californians. This research finds that:

  • Middle and low-income Californians continue to worry about running out of money to buy food. Fewer than one in five survey respondents are able to “always” get the food they need.
  • More than four in five of those who have been incarcerated, or have a household member who has been, say they often or sometimes worried about running out of food in the past year. 84% worry about running out of food and 78% have actually run out of food.
  • Extreme weather harms Californian food security. Two in five survey respondents say that extreme weather made it harder for them to get food, with the increase in cost surrounding the event being the primary challenge.
  • Experiences with unfair treatment and language barriers continue to be a deterrent to using public benefits. A quarter of survey respondents have experienced unfair treatment when applying for CalFresh. More than one in ten experienced a language barrier with CalFresh.
  • More than half of survey respondents do not trust the drinking water in their home. As a result, half of CalFresh recipients use their benefits to purchase drinking water, spending $20 or less on bottled water each week.
  • Cuts to benefits, including Cal-Fresh, WIC and P-EBT widely impact their ability to get the food they need and want. More than three-quarters of survey respondents say the end of CalFresh emergency allotments makes it harder for them to afford food. 74% say cutting WIC produce benefits will make it harder to afford the food they need and want.
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What’s next

We will continue to dive deeper into specific intersections of our research. Please keep an eye out for upcoming webinars and events!


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