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An estimated 3.8 million California adults — particularly those in households with children as well as low-income Latinos — could not afford to put adequate food on the table during the recent recession, according to a new policy brief by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.
In 2009, about one in six low-income Californians had "very low food security," which describes multiple instances in which people had to cut their food intake and experienced hunger, according to the study, which is based on data from the California Health Interview Survey. This is double the one-in-12 figure from 2001.
"In a state that is the nation's breadbasket, it's sad to see that so many people don't know where their next meal is coming from," said study co-author Gail Harrison, a faculty associate at the Center for Health Policy Research and a professor at UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health.
The study was issued on Monday as the House Agriculture Committee began hearings on the Farm Bill, which funds the nation’s largest anti-hunger program. In June, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill and made $4.5 billion in cuts to food stamp benefits.
“Congress can help families avoid food insecurity by maintaining an adequate and resilient safety net,” said Matthew Sharp of the California Food Policy Advocates, which funded the study.
Food insecurity is defined as not having enough food or not having enough income to ensure a balanced diet. For many interviewed, paying for other necessities (rent, utilities, medicine) meant there was no money for food at the end of the month.