September is Hunger Action Month — a month where people stand with organizations fighting the hunger crisis across the U.S. It’s a time to ensure that the 40 million food insecure people in this country can get some relief, and to advance solutions that address the roots of hunger. There are more than enough resources for us all to eat well; no one should have to go hungry. The time is now to make this statement a reality.

The first step toward ending hunger is to help raise awareness in your community. A great first step is getting to know your local food bank. Allow me to make the introduction. We are Westside Food Bank (WSFB), the food bank warehouse in Santa Monica that has served western Los Angeles County for almost 40 years. We supply food to more than 50 social service agencies with food assistance programs. Did you know that over 1 in 10 people in our service area is food insecure? At WSFB, our mission is to end hunger in our communities by providing access to free nutritious food through food acquisition and distribution, and by engaging the community and advocating for a strong food assistance network.

You can help us advocate for a strong food assistance network by voicing your views about current government planning and legislation. For example, this year proposals have been made to restrict access to the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), a first line of defense against hunger in the U.S. (SNAP used to be called Food Stamps, and is called CalFresh in California). The most recent move has been to limit SNAP’s eligibility to certain households. Currently, states can raise SNAP income limits so that low-income households who are just above the cutoff are still eligible to receive SNAP through receiving, or being eligible to receive other benefits like TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). It’s basically a way to ensure that families who struggle with hefty housing, child care, and other basic expenses can still afford food. More than forty states, including California, have enacted this method of categorical eligibility. However, the proposed rule would limit the types of benefits conferring SNAP eligibility, and thus make it harder for these families to qualify for SNAP. If implemented, the rule change will cause an estimated 250,000 people in California and 3.1 million people nationwide to lose their food assistance benefits, particularly working families with children, senior citizens, and people with disabilities. If you want to share your thoughts with the USDA about the proposed rule, you can submit a comment through the Federal Register until September 23.

With threats to federal safety net programs that reduce poverty and hunger, our work at Westside Food Bank is more important than ever. One way you can support local hunger relief is by getting involved in WSFB’s annual Hunger Walk on November 10th. Our largest community event of the year, the Hunger Walk is a 5K walk along Santa Monica’s beach to raise awareness and funds to combat hunger on the Westside. Your participation will help sustain local food pantries and programs for thousands of families in the year ahead. WSFB annually provides over four million pounds of food to over 108,000 people in western Los Angeles County. Nearly half of the people who receive our food are children. We also reach senior citizens, veterans, college students, and people experiencing homelessness.

So on November 10th, bring the whole family down and walk along the beach for a good cause! This is a fantastic opportunity for folks of all ages. You can sign up to walk individually or as part of a team, or even participate as a business sponsor. It is completely free to participate in the walk. While fundraising is not required, it makes a big difference—just $5 feeds 20 people. You can also volunteer to help make the day even more impactful. Your presence alone will make a world of difference by raising awareness about local hunger!
For more details about the Hunger Walk and to register, please visit the event website my.wsfb.org. You can also contact Aviva at Westside Food Bank: aviva@wsfb.org or 310-826-6016 ext.16.
Let’s not limit hunger action to one month. We need everyone to spread the word, volunteer, advocate, donate, and join us as we walk to end hunger in our community.
Lia Williams is the Executive Assistant at Westside Food Bank.