Volunteers with the SF-Marin Food Bank line up to load food boxes into people’s trunks at The City’s first drive-through food bank near Oracle Park on Friday, May 15, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Pandemic intensifies local hunger crisis

New report from SF-Marin Food bank shows demand for food has nearly doubled

The coronavirus pandemic has put more people at risk of hunger, according to a new report from the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

“The economic impacts of COVID-19 have forced many of our neighbors to step into our pantries for the first time,” the report said, citing a “surge in demand” in April as many saw their jobs eliminated or hours reduced.

Before the pandemic, one in five people faced the possibility of hunger in San Francisco and Marin, according to the report. The Food Bank served an average of 32,000 households every week for a total of 855,000 meals.

Today, it’s serving 60,000 households every week, or about 1.3 million meals.

“Historic levels of unemployment are driving many to the Food Bank for the first time […] we are working to meet the sustained levels of critical need for food in our community,” Executive Director Paul Ash said in a statement.

When shelter-in-place orders were first issued, one-half of the Food Bank locations were forced to close. The stay-at-home mandate coupled with reduced public transportation left those most in need of fresh, nutritious food in the lurch.

According to the report, the people who most used the “food locator,” a tool on the Food Bank’s website to identify where they could pick up groceries, from March to June were residents of San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods including the Mission, Bayview Hunters Point, the Excelsior and Visitation Valley.

When the Food Bank quickly mobilized to open 28 emergency pop-up pantries and began grocery delivery to seniors and people with disabilities, it saw its distribution double.

At its highest point in June, the Food Bank provided 1.4 million meals in just one week.

Hunger in the Bay Area is not a new phenomenon, but the pandemic has made it more visible.

Mayor London Breed has said food security is a priority for her recovery plan.

Back in April, Breed dedicated $1 million in dedicated COVID-19 response funds to supporting existing food security programs, created a call center for those in self-quarantine to get groceries and contracted with food providers for delivery.

Last month, she allocated $45.8 million in new expenditures for food programs in her two-year budget proposed to the Board of Supervisors.

Authors of the Food Bank report say bold steps are still needed.

“This report […] demonstrates the urgent need to take action to ensure the most vulnerable in our communities can still put food on the table.”

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