With a30.3% child poverty rate.Monterey County is the childhood poverty capital of California.

Monterey County has more homeless students thanSan Francisco & San Jose combined.

Children Urgently Need Our Help

Poverty and inequality are sometimes obvious, but empty stomachs are much less visible. Monterey county has the dubious distinction of being the childhood poverty capital of California with a 30.3 percent rate.

One in 3 children and one in four adults are affected by food scarcity in Monterey County and 34 percent of county residents cannot afford food consistently. Adding to this in the wake of the Covid-19, unemployment in Monterey County now sits at 14.4% percent (as of June 2020) compared to 4.8% the same period last year, which is driving demand for food to more dire levels.

Here, levels of hunger and poverty are disproportionately higher in Hispanic and farmworker communities. According to the Racial Disparities Dashboard Poverty Rate by Census Tract, the sectors with the highest levels of Hispanic poverty also have the greatest disparities between levels of white poverty and non-white poverty. In the tract with the highest level of Hispanic poverty-46%, the racial inequality between white and non-white poverty levels was 34.1%. It is no coincidence that levels of hunger are highest in rural ‘food desert’ areas where our Latino, Ag and hospitality workers live.

Staggering Student Homelessness

Many people don’t know that Monterey County has more homeless students than San Francisco and San Jose combined. This was true before COVID-19 hit, so children and students here rely heavily on school meals as their only stable source of nutrition. Now, in the era of pandemic uncertainty, with schools closed and job losses hitting low-wage workers hardest (with rates of unemployment exceeding those of the Great Depression), we are being inundated with desperate families who need our help for the foreseeable future.

According to the 2019-20 Monterey County Legislative Program document, 22% of County residents are non-citizens – the highest of all 58 California counties – and do not qualify for emergency aid or other safety nets. Their remote locations, lack of transportation, and overcrowded housing conditions heighten their risk of illness and hunger.

At our Kids N.O.W. school programs,90% of children live in povertyand 33% are homeless.

Local Workforce Challenges

Monterey County is one of the most productive Ag regions in the world, but the people who tend and harvest this world-class produce cannot afford it. It follows that Latino and farmworker communities are 2X times more likely than whites to have Type 2 diabetes and other chronic illnesses caused by poor nutrition. Unlike other Ag communities that are able to increasingly rely on automation, our local crops are labor intensive, and need to be handpicked, requiring large numbers of workers. Just as the COVID layoffs have disproportionately affected these communities, so has COVID itself. According to the Monterey County Health Department, 87% of cases are Hispanic and 70% are farmworkers. The rate is also rising almost exclusively within farmworkers.

In addition to the sudden loss of Ag and hospitality jobs across Monterey county, our other safeguards against hunger and food insecurity are collapsing. Over 90% of Latino children lost access to free and reduced-price breakfasts and lunches when our local schools closed. Many more have lost access to subsidized meals at Migrant HeadStart child-care centers. 100% of these children qualified for free/reduced-price school meals.

These programs also addressed vital child nutrition and health need. In our county children are exhibiting symptoms of stunted growth previously seen only in developing countries. We also have one of the highest levels of Type 2 diabetes in Hispanic children under the age of five.

Summer food programs that helped bridged the gap when schools are closed faced formidable safety and staffing challenges due to the pandemic, and thus never opened. Summer school, recreation centers, sports leagues, daycare centers, camps, and other kids activities that offered meals and snacks have also been cancelled due to the pandemic.

Monterey County also has one of the state’s largest populations of indigenous workers, who speak neither Spanish nor English. Unable to communicate, seek out and utilize resources, living in the most remote areas and doing the riskiest jobs, they are at highest risk for both hunger and COVID. It is estimated that one-third of ag workers in Monterey County are indigenous.

Over half of the 100,000+ Monterey County residents we serve each year are children.

Take action now to help us feed the most vulnerable in Monterey County.