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CBS13 Investigates: Does Governor's 'Great Plates Delivered' Program Deliver On Promises?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — The governor's first-in-the-nation Great Plates Delivered program promised to deliver three nutritious meals a day to low income, immune-compromised seniors trapped at home during the pandemic.

But has Great Plates delivered on its promises? CBS13 has learned that may depend on where you live.

Immune-compromised and trapped at home, Judy is grateful for — and dependent on — the food delivered to her home. Judy, who asked that we not use her last name, says the meals delivered though the Great Plates program have become her primary source of food.

Though she says Great Plates hasn't exactly delivered on the governor's promises.

"I reached out to you because I had some serious questions about discrepancies and mixed messages," Judy said.

Missing Meals?

First, there was the promise of 21 meals a week. Judy points to the governor's daily press conferences where he has promoted the program stating that it delivers "three meals a day," "seven days a week," with "no cap" for seniors who meet the qualifications.

Judy meets the qualifications and has been accepted into the program but she has been capped at two meals five days a week.

"It's a total of 10 meals a week, which is different from what the governor announced and continues to repeat in every briefing," she said.

According to data obtained by CBS13, at least two out of five participating cities and counties are not providing the full 21 meals a week. For instance, in Sacramento, they offer three meals six days a week. In Los Angeles, where Judy lives, they average two meals two days a week.

A representative from Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti's office tells CBS13 that the City of Los Angeles had an existing senior meal delivery program. When the governor announced the Great Plates Delivered program, Los Angeles chose to keep the meal frequency consistent with the existing program and add more people based on the additional criteria.

"I want to know as a taxpayer, how much money are they getting?" Judy asked. "Is somebody getting more than they should and not using it."

Show Me the Money

According to the state, each city and county is reimbursed based on actual costs up to $66 per person, per day. FEMA reimburses 75% of the costs, the state pays 18.75% and the local jurisdiction pays 6.25%.

Totals costs vary greatly depending on the city or county.

A list of expenses obtained by CBS13, as of week nine of the program, indicated that the total costs per participating agency ranged from just $3,500 in the City of Bell Garden, which had served just 4 people total, to more than $6.9 million in the City of Los Angeles, which had served more than 8,900 people.

The average costs incurred per agency was about $1.5 million, serving an average of 928 people and spending an average of about $18 per meal.

But the number of people served and the cost per meal also varied greatly.

In Los Angeles, they had spent more than four times the average and served more nine times as many people, spending far less per person and about $10 per meal.

Great Plates *Doesn't* Deliver in Most Areas

However, what's even more concerning for Judy than the number of meals is the lack of access. When the governor encouraged more people to sign up two weeks ago, "I tried not to throw something at the TV," she said.

That's because, in most areas, people cannot sign up.

Out of the more than 500 cities and counties in California, only 34 — a little more than 6% — are currently offering the optional program.

Only seven localities in the Sacramento area are participating including the cities of Elk Grove, Lodi, Citrus Heights, Sacramento, and Rancho Cordova, as well as Nevada County and Yolo County.

Some of the cities that are participating, like Los Angeles, stopped accepting new applications within the first few weeks of the program.

That was something Judy learned due to a privacy breach.

Privacy Breach

An IT error in Los Angeles sent people's reply emails when they were rejected out to a group of 1,500 strangers.

"All of a sudden, I have a whole bunch of people's e-mails, very private and really sad information about these people being rejected," she said.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's office said fewer than 10 people were impacted and they stress it was not a data breach, though Judy says it was definitely a privacy breach as she read their heartbreaking and personal requests for help.

"I think part of the problem is there's nobody coordinating, nobody managing, nobody with answers," Judy said. "There are so many things that aren't coordinated."

In total, the program has served more than 3 million meals to more than 34,000 Californians in 37 cities and counties. In a statement, representatives from CalOES, which oversees the program at the state level, told CBS13:

"Great Plates Delivered is the first program of its type in the country and has already proven highly successful serving nearly 4 million meals to vulnerable Californians during a time of great need. An important part of Great Plates, like all of state safety-net programs, is to constantly use data and feedback from the public to refine and improve the way we deliver services to Californians."

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