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Posted on January 16, 2020 at 1:57 PM by Katie Combs Prichard
Food - and the lack of it - comes into sharp focus during the holiday season, with images of canned food drives and donated turkeys dominating television screens. Food insecurity — defined as lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life — is a serious issue year-round, not just during the holidays. While it may seem like a remote problem to some, right here in our community, thousands are making difficult choices of whether to buy healthy food or pay for rent or utilities. One in ten people in Placer County experience food insecurity. One in ten! For Placer children, the number is closer to one in seven.
Not having enough healthy food goes beyond the discomfort of hunger and can have serious physical and mental health consequences. In kids, food insecurity may result in delayed development, anemia, behavioral problems and academic struggles. In adults, it may lead to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and psychological issues.
Raising awareness of hunger in our community is the first step toward working together to solve the problem. Our county staff and community-based partners like the Placer Food Bank work diligently to reduce hunger. The food bank serves more 90,000 across not just Placer County, but also Nevada and El Dorado each month, distributing 6 to 7 million pounds of food each year. Consider donating non-perishable food items, extra produce from your garden or backyard orchard, a financial gift, or your time as a volunteer in order to support the crucial work of food banks throughout the year.
In addition to local partners, the state and federal government are also increasing their efforts to address food security, to the benefit of Placer residents. CalFresh (formerly known as food stamps) is now available to more people with Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, who are elderly or disabled. A new state law that went into effect over the summer allows over 2,000 more vulnerable Placer residents to receive help getting food on the table. Any individual or family who thinks they may be eligible can apply for CalFresh online at www.getcalfresh.org. Apply even if you aren’t sure you qualify - seniors, students and others sometimes miss out on getting their food benefits unnecessarily. Every $5 of CalFresh benefits spent creates an estimated $9 in local economic activity, so CalFresh supports our community in more ways than one.
Participants in our Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program now receive an EBT card instead of the paper food checks of the past. An EBT card is used like a debit card and offers a much easier shopping experience. (CalFresh has been using EBT cards for several years already.) WIC and CalFresh are separate benefit programs, but can be used in tandem to cover food costs in order to free up money for things like rent or medical bills. WIC is specifically for low-income women who are pregnant/postpartum, infants and/or children up to age five.
We’ve already seen many families who are excited about the new EBT card, and who greatly benefit from the healthy food options provided through the WIC program.
If you know someone who may be struggling to get food on the table, please let them know that help is available. Connecting individuals to WIC and CalFresh programs can help ensure that families have not just a holiday feast, but some stability to fill their refrigerators throughout the year.
Dr. Aimee, Aimee Sisson, has returned to Placer as the county’s new health officer. Contact the public health office at (530) 889-7141.