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An Alarming Number Of LA County Residents Go Without Enough Food

Food lines the shelves of an empty grocery store.
Approximately 10% of L.A. County residents are food insecure.
(Nathália Rosa/Unsplash)
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Fewer people are suffering from hunger than at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, but an alarming number of L.A. County residents are still going without enough food.

Approximately one in 10 residents are food insecure right now, according to research conducted by USC for the county. At the pandemic's peak, it was about one-third. Many of the most vulnerable households include children.

“For kids, in the years where they're growing and setting them off on these trajectories of their health for their lifetime, having the associated challenges with eating well and having good nutrition is really concerning,” said USC public health scientist and research team leader Kayla de la Haye.

L.A. County data shows programs such as CalFresh have a high success rate when people sign up, she said.

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“There looks to be a lot of work to do to increase enrollment in these government programs,” said De la Haye, “including families that are undocumented.”

About 75% of households experiencing hunger are not getting any of the food benefits available to them, according to the researchers.

Part of that problem can be laid at the county's feet, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by two nonprofits. It claims the Department of Public Social Services, which administers CalFresh locally, has failed to process food applications in a timely manner for the region's poorest people.

To qualify for CalFresh benefits, applicants must meet the basic requirements:

  • Receive CalWORKS or General Relief
  • Have low-income or no income
  • Have limited property
  • Are a U.S. Citizen or a legal resident
  • Are an immigrant that meets certain criteria
  • Receive Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP)

The Department of Public Social Services is available to help with the application process and can be reached at (866) 613-3777.

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