While hunger and food insecurity are certainly not limited to seasonal fluctuations, they impact scores of Bay Area residents during the holiday season more profoundly. Recently, the number of those subjected to food insecurity is rising and has become even more challenging due to the many wildfires ravaging the state and displacing families. While there are many organizations and local governments working tirelessly to meet the basic food needs of our neighbors, they need additional support to address the growing and far-reaching food gap.
In San Francisco, nearly 1 in 4 residents are uncertain about where their next meal is coming from. The skyrocketing cost of living that has far-outpaced wage increases; and families making over $50,000 per year struggle to afford food, though they often don’t qualify for food-aid because their income is twice the federal poverty level.
The stress of balancing the need for shelter and the need for food is one that our fellow San Franciscans grapple with daily. In a 2018 OpEd, Bruno Pillet, head of services at Second Harvest Food Bank, noted, “Despite the booming economy and low unemployment in Silicon Valley, Second Harvest and our partner agencies are serving a record number of people – an average of 260,000 kids, families and seniors every month. That’s because the cost of housing has skyrocketed, while wages have remained relatively flat for many, leaving little left over for food. Unfortunately, hunger will take a seat at too many tables this holiday season.”
The traditional source for emergency food aid is the Food Bank and Food Pantry system. In the Bay Area, the SF-Marin Food Bank distributes food through its own locations and neighborhood pantries. Unfortunately, this system is at capacity, even with the recent expansion, and is unable to warehouse the vast amounts of food to address local need. To fill the gap, some companies are stepping in to help by donating leftover prepared food from their cafeterias to local soup kitchens.
While large corporate donors and local governments play a big role in addressing the Bay Area’s hunger problem, the efforts of individual donors and volunteers truly make a difference. It’s important to remember, too, that the need is constant throughout the year, not just during the holidays.
Julia Kaman writes, “The winter holiday season often sees an increase in attendance and volunteers at soup kitchens and shelter kitchens. After all, these facilities not only provide warm food, but also shelter when the winter weather is hardest on the homeless. The increase in volunteers is often not only because of available time but because the holidays remind us of our blessings — and those who are not as blessed.”
In addition to helping neighbors in need, volunteering in the service of those struggling with hunger is a powerful reminder that poverty and hunger affects people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Helping to address hunger is a first step towards a better life for struggling families.
During this time of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, please join us in donating time and resources to support fellow San Franciscans.
Where to Volunteer:
San Francisco-Marin Food Bank
Project Open Hand
Martin de Porres House of Hospitality
Meals on Wheels San Francisco
United Council of Human Services