To find an available pantry or program, call 2-1-1 or use our online Food Locator. The Food Bank does not distribute food directly to participants from its facilities in San Francisco and Marin.
Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, one in five neighbors was at risk of hunger in San Francisco and Marin. Now, we know the need is even greater – the Food Bank is on track to distribute 41% more food this year than we did in 2019, and traffic to our online Food Locator has quadrupled. We calculate how many people are at risk of hunger using a common marker of need: the number of people living at or below 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Level. Very often, these families lack the resources to provide enough food to consistently nourish themselves. We consider these people to be food insecure.
For a family of three, 200% of the federal poverty level means having an annual income of no more than $40,320 – a number that does not take into account the high cost of living in the Bay Area. At that income level, families are eligible for some public assistance programs, like CalFresh (food stamps), free- or reduced-price school meals, and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
“Hunger” is a physical sensation we all experience when we haven’t eaten or haven’t eaten enough. It feels uncomfortable and it demands to be noticed. Most of us have felt hunger once in a while, but when it becomes frequent, hunger can have serious health implications.
“Food insecurity” is a broader idea that describes the experience of not being able to obtain enough food on a regular basis. It might include feeling hungry, but also includes the stress, anxiety and worry of uncertainty. People experiencing food insecurity may be able to obtain enough by making sacrifices in other areas – like forgoing paying for needed medication – while others make their food ‘stretch’ by buying cheaper, unhealthier food or by eating smaller meals. But even if these actions are enough to avoid hunger, food insecurity takes a toll on physical health and overall well-being.
Hunger frequently strikes the most vulnerable people in our communities. Historically, children and seniors in particular are more likely to suffer the consequences of food insecurity.
COVID-19 has also had an impact on who is hungry in San Francisco and Marin. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a disproportionate rise in hunger amongst children and people of color.
Approximately 4 percent of neighbors served by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank network of partner agencies this year are unhoused.
Overall across the country, we are seeing relaxed restrictions as non-essential businesses are reopening and essential businesses are expanding their services. However, the improved economic situation has not effected everyone equally. Now, we are seeing a sustained increase in need – more than 50,000 households turn to us each week, up from 32,000 pre-pandemic, and traffic to our online Food Locator has quadrupled. Though many of us are slowly returning to normalcy, the numbers are clear: there is no vaccine for hunger. It will take time for those most impacted by the crisis to get back on their feet.
Anyone who considers themselves in need of food qualifies for assistance from Food Bank programs and pantries. It is important to us that anyone who is hungry be able to access food with dignity — without having to prove their income or household circumstances. Feelings of shame or embarrassment can prevent people from accessing our services; that is why most of our programs only require that very basic information be shared by participants.
There are two exceptions: The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which is a USDA program that is administered by the Food Bank. Participants in this program must verify residency in San Francisco or Marin and submit proof that their income is below a federally determined level. The other is CalFresh (food stamps), which requires an application process with the county.
The Food Bank’s food comes from a wide variety of sources – both donated and purchased. Sixty percent of the food the organization distributes is fresh produce (much of it straight from farms in the Central Valley), 15 percent is federal commodities from the USDA, and 10 percent of the food is protein and other staples that the Food Bank purchases. The remaining comes from food manufacturers, local supermarkets and community food drives.
Eligibility standards for many government benefits are set at the federal level, without taking into account that the local cost of living is considerably higher than the national average. Many lower-income residents of San Francisco and Marin find they earn too much to receive benefits, but not enough to get by without assistance.
For example, in order to qualify for CalFresh (food stamps), your gross income must be below 200% of the federal poverty level. Currently, that is $40,320 for a family of three. And at that income level, families may only be eligible for the minimum monthly benefit of $16.
Use the Self Sufficiency Standard Tool developed by the Insight Center for Community and Economic Development to calculate what the livable wage is in your area: http://www.insightcced.org/tools-metrics/self-sufficiency-standard-tool-for-california/
We often say that we can’t ‘food bank’ our way out of hunger and food insecurity. Currently, despite the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank’s growth and capacity to distribute more food each year, we know we aren’t reaching everyone. When we look at the number of people who are living below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level, and calculate how much food is being provided by the nonprofit sector, government programs, and household income, we know that 35 million meals are still missing each year.
You can read more here.
Not enough. The need for assistance has never been greater, yet current Congressional proposals would cut food stamp benefits dramatically, resulting in a loss of critical assistance for hundreds of thousands of families nationwide.
None of what we do to end hunger in San Francisco and Marin is possible without your support. When you donate to the Food Bank and tell your friends about the work you support, you’re making a vital investment in your community.
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