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Policy Brief on Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Populations in San Bernardino County 1

Policy Brief on Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Populations in San Bernardino County

Jerry Aneke and Nicole Celera

California State University, San Bernardino

HSCI 660D

15 June 2018
Policy Brief on Food Insecurity Among Low-Income Populations in San Bernardino County 2

Executive Summary

The lack of consistent and dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living

constitutes as food insecurity (Coleman et al., 2016). Food insecurity among low-income

populations in San Bernardino County is a public health concern and it can possibly have serious

ramifications to the health of populations. There needs to be a more universal and fair approach

to help combat food insecurity. Current food assistance resources are provided by the Food and

Nutrition Service, which is an agency for the Department of Agriculture, to help those in need of

proper nutrition. Programs include Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which

is more commonly known as food stamps, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women,

Infants, and Children (WIC), Free and Reduced Lunch Program (National School Lunch

Program), Summer Food Service Program, Community Action Partnership (CAP), Elderly

Nutrition Program, Mobile Fresh Bus, and Food Recovery and Pantries (San Bernardino County,

2017). However, these food assistance resources have issues with their policies. These programs

need to reconstruct their eligibility requirements because some people and households that are

suffering from food insecurity do not meet the requirements that these programs cater assistance

towards.

There are several actions that are recommended to fight food insecurity to achieve

equitable food access to all people. We agree with San Bernardino County’s recommendations of

the following actions: improving access to healthy and affordable foods in low-income

communities, more education of food insecurity by utilizing and focusing on schools and the

media, efficient use of food sources, encouraging physicians to screen for food insecurity,

development of a Healthy Food Resource Guide in the referral process in food assistance

programs and resources, increase promotion of local, federally funded food assistance program

services and resources, and reassembling Food Policy Council to raise awareness and address
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food security (San Bernardino County, 2017). We also have recommendations for some food

assistance programs to change their policies for eligibility to ensure people who need the services

have the opportunity to have access to it. In addition, we recommend the development of policies

that require grocery stores and supermarkets to be located in close proximity to communities that

lack access, and for grocery stores and supermarkets to provide access to affordable and healthy

foods.

Context and importance of the problem

In 2017, approximately 12% of people in San Bernardino County were considered food

insecure (Department of Public Health Nutrition Program, 2017). Food insecurity affects over

90,000 households in San Bernardino County (San Bernardino County, 2017). A major factor to

food insecurity in San Bernardino is the location. Many households are geographical located in

food deserts and do not have access to quality grocery stores that provide healthy foods in close

proximity. 33% of households within the San Bernardino population reside in a neighborhood

that is more than a mile from a grocery store or a supermarket in an urban area or 10 miles away

from a grocery store or a supermarket in a rural area (San Bernardino County, 2017). The root

cause of food insecurity is poverty. Many food insecure households have members that are

employed; but unfortunately, these are often low-income jobs, thus affecting access to healthy

foods. Almost half of San Bernardino County residents did not make enough money to be self-

sufficient financially (Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, 2017). This is a problem

because even though there are many programs that provide food assistance, most of the programs

cater to youth, adults, and elderly people who are under the federal poverty level (San

Bernardino County, 2017). Some households that are in dire need for food security are not

eligible for these food assistance programs because they do not technically meet the eligibility

requirements. Institute for Health Policy and Leadership reported that 26% of food insecure
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children were not income-eligible for federal food assistance (2017). In addition there are

currently no existing policies requiring grocery stores to be located in close proximity to

neighborhoods that lack access to healthy and affordable foods. The community and the

government need to work together in order to better serve the people and households that lack

access to quality, health foods, especially in low-income communities.

Food insecurity makes a significant impact on the health of human beings. Unhealthy

food choices are made because fast food businesses are more prevalent, cheaper than healthy

foods, and are typically located in close proximity to low-income areas. This leads to several

health problems, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, cancer,

liver disease, asthma, arthritis, lung disease, kidney disease, stress, and depression (Institute for

Health Policy and Leadership 2017). It is important to change current policies and to create

policies that ensures all people who lack access to affordable and healthy foods to have the

ability to attain access to healthy foods. This will result in reducing food insecurity and health

problems in San Bernardino County.

Critique of policy option(s)

Current measures that are in place to combat food insecurity in San Bernardino County

include CalFresh’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Special Supplemental Nutrition

Program for Women, Infants, and Children, the Free and Reduced Lunch Program, Summer

Food Service Program, Community Action Partnership, Elderly Nutrition Program, Mobile Fresh

Bus, and various food pantries (San Bernardino County, 2017). However, flaws in the current

programs include the fact that a significant portion of food insecure populations are not taking

part in them. According to the Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, 20% of people who

were eligible for CalFresh in 2013 weren’t participating in it, and although school lunch
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programs reach 75% of eligible children during the school year, those programs only reach 6%

of eligible children during the summer (Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, 2017).

Also, programs have eligibility requirements that exclude certain people from their

program, such as the Elderly Nutrition Program, which caters to the elderly population, as well

as WIC, which only provides assistance to women, infants, and children that must be in a

household with a certain income threshold. This means that struggling families or individuals

that do not fall within that income threshold would not be able to receive aid. The challenge lies

in making sure that everyone who is food insecure has access to food, or if they have access to it,

making sure that they are aware of that access. The programs that San Bernardino County has

developed have a focus on the goal of assisting those in need of food; however, there are

implementation issues that can be altered to better help those in need of food assistance that are

not receiving food assistance. The changes needed in existing policies revolve around eligibility

regulations.

Policy recommendations

There are several recommendations for existing policies and for the development of new

policies to combat food insecurity. One important recommendation that needs to be implemented

includes improving access to healthy and affordable foods in low-income communities (San

Bernardino County, 2017). This could be through the development of more grocery stores in

low-income communities. Other measures that need to be implemented are more education of

food insecurity (San Bernardino County, 2017). Food insecurity does not merely imply being

hungry. It is the lack of consistent and dependable access to dependable food. This affects all

types of people, especially people in poverty and people in low-income areas with or without

supportive jobs. A focus of education through media and schools would be extremely beneficial,
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since today’s society is technologically savvy and schools is an ideal location to education

students about important topics such as food insecurity (San Bernardino County, 2017). Another

step is the efficient use of food sources to prevent food waste (San Bernardino County, 2017).

An implementation that encourages physicians to screen for food insecurity and properly

intervene in clinical settings would be helpful (San Bernardino County, 2017). Within the

referral process, the development of a Healthy Food Resource Guide in food assistance programs

and resources would be a huge step (San Bernardino County, 2017). This will allow a guide to

be involved in helping people pick the best program and resources in their circumstances. A step

that is really needed is an increase promotion of local, federally funded food assistance program

services and resources (San Bernardino County, 2017). Promotion and awareness is essential to

the programs. Many people that need assistance with food security are not aware that they are

eligible for certain programs. Reassembling Food Policy Council to raise awareness and address

food security is the final recommendation by San Bernardino County. This approaches

identifying and addressing food-related policy issues and opportunities (San Bernardino County,

2017).

Many food assistance programs are recommended to change their policies for eligibility.

In order to ensure people who need the services to have access to it, policies need to change their

eligibility standards. Some households are defined as food insecure households, however certain

policies of programs do not classify them as eligible to receive their services. Creating fairer

eligibility requirements is recommended. This is needed to help in assisting all that are in need of

access to foods. Also, there needs to be a development of policies that require grocery stores and

supermarkets to be located in close proximity to communities that lack access and for them to

provide access to affordable and healthy foods. Some communities in San Bernardino County are

geographically located in food desert areas. In these areas, there are not many reliable sources
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that provide essential, healthy and affordable foods for communities and households that lack

access to grocery stores and supermarkets.

Recommendations to stakeholders include obtaining more precise information about

food-insecure households (Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, 2017). Stakeholders such

as the government, health care, schools, food providers, and non-profit organizations need to

unite to discover how deep food insecurity reaches into their communities and use that

information to develop a directed approach to help combat food insecurity in those areas

(Institute for Health Policy and Leadership, 2017). The Institute for Health Policy and

Leadership mentions the local data gaps in San Bernardino County of the communities that are

the most affected by food insecurity (2017). More research and data on these statistics are

important to create policies in combating food insecurity.

Within the public health realm, there is a major concern for food insecurity. From the

sources collected, it is found that there is a disparity within the low-income populations in San

Bernardino County. It is necessary to ensure all human beings have equitable access to food. In

order to fight food insecurity, action needs to be taken. Policies need to be changed and

developed to reflect that access to food is fair to all people, specifically the low-income

populations in San Bernardino County.

References

Coleman-Jensen, A., et al. (2016). Household food security in the United States in 2015.

(Economic Research Report No. 215). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic

Research Service. Retrieved from: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/pub-

details/?pubid=79760

Institute for Health Policy and Leadership. (2017). Issue at a Glance: Addressing Hunger in San
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Bernardino County. Loma Linda University Health. Retrieved from:

https://ihpl.llu.edu/sites/ihpl.llu.edu/files/docs/issue-at-a-glance/food-insecurity-in-san-

bernardino-county.pdf

Mariana Chilton. (2009). A Rights-Based Approach to Food Insecurity in the United States.

American Journal of Public Health. 99(7), pp. 1203-1211. Retrieved from

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2696644/

San Bernardino County. (2017). Food Security and Obesity in San Bernardino County. Public

Health Nutrition Program. Retrieved from:

http://wp.sbcounty.gov/dph/wp-content/uploads/sites/7/2018/01/Food-Security-and-

Obesity-in-San-Bernardino-County-2017.pdf

United States Department of Agriculture. (2018). Policy and Regulations. Food and Nutrition

Service. Retrieved from: https://www.fns.usda.gov/fdd/policy-and-regulations