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Food insecurity in San Diego County

 May 23, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, May 23rd.

San Diegans continue to be impacted by the end of covid food benefits. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


California, Arizona and Nevada have agreed on using less water from the Colorado River, so reservoir levels don’t fall too low.

The three states committed to reduce water use by 3 million acre-feet overall in the next three years.

Just to get an idea… an acre-foot is enough water to supply up to three households for a year.

Federal officials said most of the reductions will come by paying agricultural landowners, irrigation districts and other water users to conserve water.

The money will come from the more than one-billion-dollar Inflation Reduction Act.

Officials say it’s a short-term deal to build stability and prepare for 20-26.


Some M-T-S bus routes in the South Bay and East County are still not operating as negotiations continue between Transdev and its bus operators.

The bus operators are represented by the Teamsters union.

Drivers, mechanics, utility workers and others from Transdev are striking for sanitary bathrooms, safe places to take breaks and a fair contract.

Negotiations between Transdev and the union started last October and more than 600 drivers are currently affected.

To find out if your route is affected, visit the MTS Alerts & Detours site.


“May Grey” is in full effect.

The National Weather Service says the skies will be cloudy all week.

Temps are expected to stay in the mid-60s, so make sure to grab a light jacket when you head out of the house.

Today, temps will be around 66 degrees.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


The U-S senate passed a resolution last week to allow the Department of Homeland Security to consider an applicant’s use of food stamps against their bid for citizenship.

The Biden administration has promised to veto the change…

But it’s not the only threat facing food insecure San Diegans.

It's been more than two months since the covid emergency food benefits ended in California.

Reporter Katie Hyson spoke with neighbors who are already feeling the strain.

I just hope this, the state, the federal government, somebody wakes up, it's like, people are going to starve. Maria Hernandez lives with her 17-year-old daughter in Poway. They survive off Hernandez’s disability check and their combined CalFresh benefits. In March, the COVID emergency allotments ended. Their monthly grocery assistance went from about $600 down to just 160. $160 for me and my daughter? That's nothing. That’s nothing. You can't survive. With the extra benefits, Hernandez used to buy fresh vegetables and lean meats.  Now, they eat what they can afford: ground beef and tuna fish, mac and cheese and Top Ramen. Produce from food pantries often goes bad within a day, she says. The nutritional change reflected in her doctor visits for her diabetes. The processed food is cheaper, which is sad. My sugars were leveled, but now they're going up and down again. Hernandez works the grocery sales, but still has to dip into savings. When she had the extra benefits, she set some aside each month to prepare for the day when they would end. She has a stockpile in her pantry. She estimates it will last two more months. There's going to be times where I'm going to just let her eat or whatever the case may be, you know, because I can't afford it. The end of the emergency allotments resulted in an estimated loss of more than seven and half million meals a month in San Diego County. Hernandez is one of many. And a lot of people think it's just unhoused. That’s Carissa Casares, a Feeding San Diego spokesperson.It's not. It could be your neighbor, it could be your friend, it could be a colleague. Food banks, already strained by record food inflation and rising transport costs, are reporting increased demand they’re unable to meet. Casares says the emergency allotments are irreplaceable. There's no solution to this, really. This was a huge loss. Food banks can't just simply come up with the replacement. We're struggling already with donations that are down. Hunger Coalition CEO Anahid Brakke puts this into perspective. The loss of these emergency allotments is worse than if every single food bank and food pantry closed their doors. Brakke says CalFresh benefits have other advantages over food banks. The dollars are spent locally. They’re accessible for those who can’t make it to a food bank. And can be spent on foods appropriate to someone’s culture and diet. And Brakke says many San Diegans who are eligible are not enrolled. They may not realize that the income limit is double the federal poverty level. Or they believe, incorrectly, that it will endanger their ability to become a citizen. They're worried that they'll be considered a public charge on the government and be looked on less favorably for citizenship. That is not true. And many who are enrolled are not getting the maximum benefit for which they’re eligible. She says the system is unnecessarily complicated – it requires internet access, tech savvy and advanced language proficiency. If everyone who is eligible for CalFresh got the benefit, she says food banks could be used more strategically for people who are not eligible. The numbers just don't work out when you look at the salaries and you look at the cost of living. So it really isn't a sign of personal failing. This is really an equity issue. Brakke and other advocates are eyeing a piece of legislation that, if approved, would increase the monthly minimum CalFresh benefits from $23 per month to 50. It’s an increase almost big enough to cover a gallon of milk and a dozen eggs each week. Meanwhile, Hernandez’s stockpile is running out. Katie Hyson, KPBS News.


The San Diego city council yesterday appointed a group of community volunteers to review and investigate allegations of police misconduct…after a recent KPBS investigation found community oversight of S-D-P-D has come to a halt in recent months.

Reporter Scott Rodd has this story.

Dozens of nominees from the community appeared before City Council members. Each made their case as to why they’re qualified to oversee San Diego police. The Council chose 25 of them to serve on the Commission on Police Practices. Ramon Montaño Marquez is among the volunteers selected. He told KPBS he wants to see more transparency when it comes to the handling of police misconduct allegations.“For me accountability means our community has a voice, that there isn’t no backdoor meetings when we have to conduct certain investigations.” The Commission was created after voters overwhelmingly passed Measure B in November 2020. It will have the power to independently investigate allegations of police misconduct and subpoena witnesses. But it’s taken two and a half years for Council members to create a framework for the commission and appoint commissioners. A KPBS investigation found the backlog of unreviewed police misconduct cases has piled up during that time. The new commissioners will need to complete extensive training before they can begin reviewing cases. The commission will also need to hire full-time staff members before independent investigations of SDPD can get started. SOC.


Yesterday, the council also voted to modify an emergency covid policy that allowed restaurants to use street parking for dining.

It’s referred to as its “Spaces as places” policy.

Reporter Kitty Alvarado tells us business owners that want to keep those spaces will have to pay.

The California Coastal commission said “Spaces as Places” violates access, traffic and fire safety regulations… And said the city needs to modify the policy. Mike Soltan the owner of Kojacks in Mission Beach says the policy has outlived its purpose I'm glad they did it because that kind of helped the situation but right now especially in Mission Beach that area we need parking spots Ultimately the council voted to compromise … they would  accept the coastal commission’s rules with some modifications … including businesses that want to keep the spaces  must have a permit and replace the access or parking they use up to a nearby location and pay for the costs. Kitty Alvarado KPBS News.


One San Diego drug and alcohol recovery program is using skateboarding to help people overcome addiction and improve their mental health.

Health reporter Matt Hoffman has more.

Brandon Turner is a professional skateboarder --called a skating prodigy, he’s been sponsored since he was 13. But he has also struggled with substance abuse.. After getting his addiction under control he founded West Side Recovery.. It’s a drug and alcohol treatment center that uses skateboarding as a tool  to help people overcome addiction .. Turner says it’s a healthy release that also has valuable lessons--skateboarding teaches you failure on a daily basis you’re going to be failing every single day and it’s not what you do when you fall -- or if you’re going to fall, because you’re going to fall -- it’s what you do when you pick yourself back up West Side recovery also has a residential treatment center  and people are in the program from 90 days to a year. MH KPBS News.


Coming up.... A jump in wine sales in the county. We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


The fight for better working conditions and better pay has more and more workers organizing, and that includes baristas.

Late last week, a Starbucks in Encinitas became the first in the county to unionize.

North County reporter Tania Thorne has the story.

When Denika Brown started working at Starbucks she said she loved it. But things started to change. She said there used to be up to 7 workers on the floor during a shift. Corporate has decided to cut labor. So they’re trying to see how few people we can run the floor with. At times its been 3, even 2 if we have to run lunches. Hours were cut too and Brown says most of the baristas at the shop have had to take on side jobs to make ends meet. Together, the workers at the Starbucks off Leucadia and the I- 5 freeway voted to join Starbucks Workers United. They have become the 24th store in CA to unionize-  but the first in San Diego County. Brown hopes their win inspires others to join forces and speak up against unfair work practices. And she hopes this means their store will get more staff and they can go back to relying on one stream of income like it used to be. TT KPBS News. 


In other beverage related news, the county’s wine industry saw an 11 percent increase in sales last year.

That’s an all-time high for the industry.

North County Reporter Alexander Nguyen took a look at the industry’s economic impact on the region.

last year … san diego county wineries had more than 49 million dollars in gross sales … and the number of wineries grew to 166 … that according to the recent economic impact report released by the san diego county vintners association. mike weber is the vice president of the vintners association and general manager of orfila winery. he says covid did a number on the industry but those pandemic changes are also what’s helping the industry grow right now. “we all remember that, that we had to go outside. well, it's really been rather effective. the wine business, in general, is an event type of business. you come here to drink and enjoy it and having more room outside in a view like this, it is really enthralling for people.” with nearly 170 wineries in the county … almost doubling that of riverside county… the wine industry is one of the top 10 agricultural industries in san diego. an/kpbs

TAG: Orfila (ore-fee-lah) Vineyard and Winery is a corporate partner of KPBS.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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It's been more than two months since the COVID emergency food benefits ended in California, and some San Diegans continue to face food insecurities. In other news, the San Diego City Council Monday appointed a group of community volunteers to review and investigate allegations of police misconduct, after a recent KPBS investigation found community oversight of SDPD has come to a halt in recent months. Plus, San Diego County’s wine industry saw an 11% increase in sales last year.