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Hunger in San Diego

California is the 8th largest economy in the world, but 16% of the population, or one in six Californians, live in poverty according to the official federal poverty measure. Once other factors are incorporated into calculating poverty in the state, particularly housing costs, our state’s poverty rate rises to 23.4%, the highest in the nation and nearly ten percentage points higher than the national average. This equates to roughly 9 million Californians living in poverty.

San Diego is unfortunately no different. We live in “America’s Finest City,” but hundreds of thousands of our County’s resident struggle with food insecurity every day. Here are the facts:

Food Insecure San Diegans: 435,560
This equates to roughly 14%, or one in seven, residents of San Diego County.


What is food security?
The US Department of Food and Agriculture defines food security as “access at all time to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members."

Food Insecure Children in San Diego: 161,680
Nearly a quarter of children (22%) in San Diego County are considered food insecure.

Average cost of a meal in San Diego County: $3.17
San Diego’s average meal cost is 14% higher than the national average of $2.79.

Eligible San Diegans currently receiving CalFresh: 47.6%
CalFresh is California’s name for the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This is an estimate of CalFresh utilization among individuals who meet select CalFresh criteria. San Diego County ranked 44th out of 58 California counties with regards to CalFresh utilization in 2013. Overall, California has the second worst SNAP participation rate in the country, which means California is missing out on needed economic stimulus; the USDA estimates that every $1.00 of SNAP benefits generates $1.80 in economic activity.

Number of blind, aged, or disabled San Diegans who receive SSI: 84,827
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program is a federal assistance program that is meant to meet the basic needs of low-income individuals who generally cannot work. The State Supplemental Payment (SSP) is California’s contribution to this program. In 2015, the maximum SSI/SSP payment is $889 per month, which is less than the “fair market rent” of a studio apartment in San Diego County. SSI/SSP recipients are not eligible to receive CalFresh benefits.

Percentage of eligible children who participate in the federal school breakfast program in San Diego County: 40%
In contrast, participation in the school lunch program in San Diego County is nearly 75%. If participation in the school breakfast program matched participation in the school lunch program, San Diego County could be receiving over $21 million in additional federal funding. San Diego County’s participation in the school breakfast program is slightly higher than the statewide participation rate of 35%.

Overweight or obese school-aged students in San Diego County: 34.5%
In total, in estimated 59 percent of adults in San Diego County are overweight or obese. Nationwide and locally, three behaviors – including poor nutrition – contribute to four diseases (heart disease/stroke, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and respiratory conditions) that result in over 50 percent of all deaths. In addition, poor nutrition is affecting our national security - according to Mission: Readiness, nearly one third of young American adults are too overweight for military service.

Food assistance recipients in San Diego who are active duty military households: 10%
Feeding America San Diego estimates that 27% of their food assistance recipients include someone who is currently serving or has previously served in the military. The Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank estimates that their distributions assist 28,000 low-income military service members and their dependents each month.

Cal Facts, Legislative Analyst Office, December 2014
Household Food Security in the United States in 2013, US Department of Agriculture, December 2014
Map the Meal Gap 2015, Feeding America 
Map the Meal Gap 2015, Feeding America San Diego 
Program Access Index, California Food Policy Advocates
Nutrition & Food Insecurity Profile, California Food Policy Advocates
Our Distribution Statistics, Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank
Hunger in America 2014, Feeding America San Diego 

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Melanie Cohn, Manager
(858) 609-7963 - -


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