CalFresh, California’s version of the federal food stamps program, is ending the emergency allotments and additional benefits being offered to recipients during the COVID-19 pandemic on March 26, and local food banks are scrambling to gather more supplies in anticipation of a massive rise in hunger. 

CalFresh serves over 1.5 million people in Los Angeles County and over 665,000 people in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. Now, with the benefits ending on Sunday, the average CalFresh recipient is set to lose around $82 per month, and families using CalFresh services may lose up to $200 per month. 

Local area food banks are now preparing for what they have coined as a “hunger cliff” as rising costs for groceries, housing and utilities amidst a volatile economy are putting more of a strain on the millions of Southern Californians that rely on CalFresh.

The ending of benefits has facilities like Westside Food Bank in Santa Monica unsure if they will be able to handle the impending inundation of people needing more supplies. 

“With the loss of these pandemic-era benefits, we are facing a severe escalation in hunger,” said Westside Food Bank President and CEO Genevieve Riutort. “Access to food is a basic human right, so we hope to get the word out about this critical loss in benefits so that our community can bond together to help our neighbors in need during this difficult time.” 

According to Westside Food Bank, they are already providing the equivalent of 1.7 million more meals than they were before the pandemic.

If you would like to donate to the Westside Food Bank, you can do so by clicking here

To view food pantries near you, visit the Los Angeles Regional Food Bank website