California food banks face unprecedented demand

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO/CNN) – It’s one of the enduring images of 2020: people lined up for food, many reaching out for help for the first time.

For the Alameda County Community Food Bank, meeting this need has been a huge challenge.

Michael Altfest works with the food bank. He said, “We’ve seen unprecedented spikes in need. We, almost overnight, saw a 1,000 percent increase in calls to our food helpline. We’re now distributing 50 to 70 percent more food now than we were this time last year.”

Alameda resident Roberta Crawford said, “The boxes we get, we share with our neighbors. We have some neighbors that can’t get out and this is real important. It helps a lot of people.”

The huge increase in demand for food here in Alameda County since the pandemic began is reflected at food banks and non-profits all over the Bay Area.

Second Harvest in the South Bay has doubled its food distribution since March while struggling to keep enough volunteers on its rolls.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank now serves 55,000 households per week while the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano provides food for 100,000 more people per month since COVID hit.

Thankfully, the community and corporate partners have stepped up their donations. But the cost of buying food has skyrocketed.

Altfest explained, “We are now spending a million and a half to two million dollars on food every month. This time last year, that was about $400,000.”

While rising to meet the need, Bay Area food banks are hoping the new year brings many people out of the darkness that marked so much of 2020.

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