Food Banks in Silicon Valley Are Under Pressure Amid Growing Logistics Needs of Poverty


National problem

In some ways, food banks in the San Francisco Bay Area know a microcosm of what is happening in food banks nationwide.

A recent report from the United States Department of Agriculture found that in 2020, families with children were hit hardest by food insecurity and experienced increased hunger.

But the recovery is not happening the same way in cities, regions and communities, according to Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, professor of economics and poverty expert at Northwestern University, who also sits on the Greater Chicago Board of Trustees. Food Depository.

“We see it in Chicago too,” she said via email. “I think this tells us that many families are still in deep economic pain. Not surprisingly, recoveries are still uneven, and historically low-income families suffer both more and longer after recessions.

Feeding America, the umbrella organization for the nation’s largest food banks, provided 6.1 billion meals in 2020 – a 44% increase from the previous year – and is on track to bring that number to 6, $ 6 billion this year, according to Vince Hall, head of the organization. government relations officer.

“All of these infrastructure requirements have put a heavy strain on the charity food system at a time when demand is still extremely high,” he said.

April Trewyn, left, and Shannon Gybney of Feed America keep the cars moving during a food distribution event on February 25, 2021, at Greater New Birth Church in Milwaukee. Angela Peterson / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA Today Network

In Virginia, Karen Joyner, director of the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank, said that while demand for food had briefly “stabilized” at pre-pandemic levels, “we are now seeing levels picking up again.”

For the first time, Joyner had to rent self-storage space near the food bank offices in Hampton to serve as makeshift dry storage. To attract staff, Joyner also recently increased the hourly wage from $ 12 to $ 15, but she still has to hire more. She said she recently hired a child nutrition specialist and a finance department employee, but they never showed up.

“I take it you call it ghost images?” ” she said. “It has happened twice in the past two months – it has never happened before.”

Growing challenges

This demand for staff extends beyond Bay Area food banks to homeless shelters and domestic violence programs. HomeFirst, a homelessness agency serving Santa Clara County, in the heart of Silicon Valley, doubled its staff and budget during the pandemic. It also opened four additional shelters and a bridge accommodation site, and tripled the size of its outreach program. All of its shelters have now been converted for the first time to operate 24/7.

“We are working, as my grandmother would say, ‘on a full boogie’ now and for the foreseeable future,” said Andrea Urton, director of HomeFirst.

Likewise, Adriana Caldera, CEO of the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley, which has offices across the Bay Area, said the demand for services related to sexual assault and domestic violence has more than doubled during the pandemic.

“I would say Covid has exasperated the domestic violence that was already happening,” she said.

As a result, she wants to expand the offer of her group with more services such as therapy and childcare for victims. She said that as children return to school in person, there are more opportunities to report such abuse to authority figures and other school leaders. But even the expansion of in-person care has been difficult because it is so difficult to build new spaces.

“We have an establishment that we hope to open in Palo Alto to become a drop-in center. We can’t get materials for a remodel fast enough, ”she said, noting that due to delays in shipping the lumber, the remodeling cannot be completed and the center cannot open in January. 2022 as planned.

“The idea was to make it an additional site for sexual assault and domestic violence – wood is scarce right now.”

The YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley, which has offices in San Jose and San Rafael, north of San Francisco, and offers child care, therapy, and even crisis intervention in situations such as violence. domestic and sexual assault, has also seen a drastic increase in demand.

“We have seen a massive increase in demands for our services,” Caldera said, noting that she has had to increase her organization’s membership by more than 10% and that she would still like to hire more daycare teachers.

Her organization, she said, has never been so stretched for resources. She noted that as the largest rape crisis center in Santa Clara County before the pandemic, her group would see two to three cases per weekend for forensic examinations. She said that a recent weekend her staff treated nine cases.

“It keeps coming. We always know this demand and this high level of service, ”she said. “I feel like with our work on domestic violence and sexual assault, we are still at this peak level.”


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