SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a new program that would bring together farmers and ranchers suffering from decreased demand for produce with food banks helping a rising number of families in need amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Newsom opened his remarks on Wednesday by reviewing the newly introduced program with FEMA to help get restaurants back to work by providing subsidized meals to seniors in need, saying the state would now spearhead another new pact to help connect businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic with Californians in need.

COMPLETE COVERAGE: CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“In that same spirit, in that same framework of collaboration and partnership, today we’re announcing a strategy to do the same around food, but now focusing on farms to families; focusing on the issues that are front and center all across the nation,” said Newsom. “And that’s this issue of food banks and how we can do more to support our farmers, help support farm workers and also help support food banks here in the state of California.”

The initiative will be a partnership between the federal government, the state of California and philanthropy. With farmers experiencing a 50 percent drop in demand, they have excess produce and products that can’t be distributed.

Meanwhile there has been a 70 percent spike in demand at food banks. As the breadbasket of the world, Newsom said he wants the state “to address that mismatch” and work to connect farmers with food banks while helping get nutritious food to those families most in need.

“The partnership currently has about 128 farmers and ranchers providing food to 41 food banks being distributed in 58 counties. The goal of this announcement is to provide 21 million pounds of fresh food and fresh produce on a monthly basis to the state’s food banks,” explained Newsom.

The Governor said the state has raised $3.6 million to jumpstart the program with plans to extend it through the end of the year. Newsom said the program would help reduce the waste of food in addition to providing federal subsidies and tax credits to farmers and a working wage for farm workers.

The Governor additionally outlined two other programs that would provide additional resources and funds to families in need, stressing that food insecurity was just as important to alleviate as economic insecurity.

Newsom also said that families in need who use the state’s Cal Fresh program can now order food online through Amazon and Walmart with plans to expand the partnership to more vendors. Newsom said that about two million families currently use the program. A federal waiver made that partnership allowing for online ordering possible, according to Newsom.

The Governor also mentioned that additional funds would be made available to needy families by through another federal waiver obtained by the efforts of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. That waiver would help provide money to families with children eligible for reduced cost or free meals at schools, according to Newsom.

Roughly 3.8 million children are eligible for those programs, the Governor said. What Newsom called the Pandemic EBT program would make up to $1.4 billion available to the families of those children for an additional $365 per family.

“The universe of available dollars is rather large and we just want to make sure it’s socialized,” said Newsom. “And we’re doing everything in our power to get that information out there and of course encourage others that may know people that fall under that category of being eligible for free or reduced breakfast and lunch programs to know that these dollars are available for them through the EBT program. And we’re going to do our best to get them in people’s pockets because we deeply recognize people’s food insecurity, not just their economic insecurity, and we don’t want to exacerbate that to the extent we can.”

More information on those food resource programs is available on a new section of the state’s COVID-19 website.

Governor Newsom said that the state currently has approximately 46,500 cases, marking a 3.3 percent increase. There were 78 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the state’s total to 1,887 deaths, an increase of 4.3 percent.

Both the percentage of hospitalized patients and patients in ICU trended upwards slightly.

The Governor also addressed the state’s unemployment numbers, saying 3.6 million Californians have applied for unemployment insurance since March 12th. Newsom said over $6 billion has been distributed with $1.2 billion given out on Tuesday.

The state is also gradually increasing its testing capacity, averaging 20,000 COVID-19 tests a day with 25,000 tests administered Tuesday.

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