The Health Trust Releases Report Titled Food for Everyone

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The Health Trust Releases Report Titled Food for Everyone; Study Examines the Impact of Food Insecurity on Low-Income Seniors and Homeless Individuals and Families

Report Offers Roadmap for our Community’s Response to Homeless Individuals and Families and the Needs of Low-Income Seniors

SAN JOSE, Calif. – March 4, 2016 – Today, The Health Trust released “Food for Everyone,” a comprehensive study on healthy food access among low-income seniors and homeless individuals and families in San Jose.  The report takes an in-depth look into the factors affecting healthy food access and lays out opportunities to improve food assistance to two groups exceptionally vulnerable to food insecurity and diet-related health problems.

“Hunger remains a persistent challenge for far too many members of our community,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said. “This report provides us with a great opportunity to make smarter, data-driven decisions that will help us make progress towards our common goal of ensuring that all residents have access to nutritious food.”

“Individuals that are homeless and low-income seniors are some of the City’s lowest-income residents, and those most struggling with food insecurity,” said Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank. “As a community, we need to work smarter together to target the areas of high need and to find creative ways to overcome the barriers that many face on a daily basis.”

There are smart fixes available to our community now. The Health Trust is moving forward with the formation of a Food Access Implementation Task Force, consisting of City and County officials and nonprofit partners that will take the lead on ensuring that the findings of this report result in actionable solutions.

One of these solutions could actually bring additional dollars into the local economy. CalFresh, the federally-funded Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in California, provides low-income individuals and families with a monthly benefit to cover food expenses. It is estimated that 1,000 additional seniors receiving CalFresh benefits could amount to $3.35 million in additional economic activity in San Jose per year, while an increase of 100 homeless individuals and families receiving CalFresh could amount could boost the local economy by an additional $408,120.

At the same time, “Food for Everyone” shows that CalFresh on its own is not enough to close the gaps in healthy food access. This is especially true for homeless individuals and families, who rely primarily on congregate meals, and for the thousands of low-income seniors who access healthy food through the Senior Nutrition Program. To make reliable access to healthy food a reality, City and County agencies, safety-net providers, and community-based organizations must work together to maximize existing resources and commit additional resources to areas that need them most.

Using a variety of methods, including GIS mapping, interviews with providers, Census data, and local data sets, “Food for Everyone” can serve as a guide, identifying where the gaps in healthy food access are and how we can fix them.

“Smart, coordinated action from community leaders is needed now,” said Frederick Ferrer, CEO of The Health Trust. “We need to build strong partnerships with the City, County, and community organizations to make food part of a comprehensive set of essential services provided by a strong social safety net.”

When homeless individuals and families have reliable access to nutritious food, they can focus on what matters: maintaining stability and self-sufficiency and staying healthy. When seniors have access to healthy food and social interaction, they have better overall health and reduce their risk of chronic disease, costly stays at hospitals and other institutionalized care facilities.

Key Findings of Food for Everyone:

Homeless Individuals and Families

  • Homeless individuals and families in downtown San Jose may have adequate access to food safety-net providers, but many in other parts of the City do not.
  • With only 14 safety net providers serving congregate meals to individuals and families that are homeless in San Jose, there are not enough congregate meals for homeless individuals and families. If all homeless individuals and families received 1 meal 5 times a week, it would require 20,315 meals. Congregate meal providers serve approximately 8,598 meals per week, leaving a gap of 11,717 meals.
  • Not all recently housed individuals have adequate access to safety-net providers. This report presents opportunities to integrate food into the necessary supports and services provided to recently housed individuals.
  • In many parts of San Jose, low access to transit may be preventing individuals and families that are homeless from getting to safety-net providers, shelters, and healthy food retail.
  • The retail food environment around safety-net providers and shelters provides few healthy food options to homeless individuals and families. Many homeless individuals and families relying on CalFresh to supplement their food needs may have access to small markets or convenience stores, but the lack of healthy food stores in these areas is a major barrier to getting healthy food.

Low-Income Seniors

  • In many parts of San Jose, low-income seniors have no access to a safety-net provider, such as a senior center where they can get a Senior Nutrition Program congregate meal or a brown bag site where they can get groceries.
  • Seniors traveling from neighborhoods without a safety-net provider may not be able to access sites with low public transit access.
  • Many of the City’s affordable housing units, of which 22% are designated as “senior units,” are located in areas with low access to healthy foods and an overabundance of unhealthy food outlets and liquor stores.
  • There are an estimated 24,661 seniors in San Jose with ambulatory difficulty, though only about 2,489 receive Meals On Wheels. This strongly suggests that the population of older adults in need of home-delivered meals is currently underserved.

About The Health Trust

The Health Trust is an operating foundation founded in 1996. Since then, it has been a catalyst for community partnerships that identify health challenges and work together to find innovative solutions. The Health Trust provides grants, engages in policy and education and continues its legacy of providing health services to make Silicon Valley healthier for everyone. In 2010, Destination: Home became a program of The Health Trust; it is a public-private partnership implementing collective impact strategies to end homelessness in Santa Clara County. For more information, visit www.healthtrust.org.