More families depending on food banks

September 12, 2008 6:29:15 PM PDT
Santa Clara University and the second harvest food bank talked a lot about the hidden epidemic of hunger. A new study reveals just how serious a problem it is -- even in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, two of the most affluent in the state.

Virginia Guevara is a mother of five who came to the Sacred Heart Community Center for help. She says without it, her family would be hungry.

"We can't afford food right now, we can't afford clothing. The house rent is going up right now and gas. We actually come here to ask for help," said Guevara.

Virginia's husband does work, but their income doesn't go far enough. Her family is what researchers call a food insecure household.

A forum held on Friday at Santa Clara University brought together researchers and food assistance providers to discussed the first ever hunger index -- a measure of food insecure families in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The index revealed that one in 12 families experienced food insecurity.

"A child cannot learn in school if they don't have proper nutrition an elderly person should not have to be scrimping on their meals because they want to pay for their medication," said Cindy McCowan from the Second Harvest Food Bank.

Last year, assistance programs including food stamps provided 167 million pounds of food to those families. An additional 140 million pounds will be needed this year.

Santa Clara University professor Drew Starbird developed the hunger index. He says food assistance programs are doing their best, but more people could be fed if they could get food stamps.

"California has a very low participation in food stamps which means that many of the people who are eligible don't participate," said Professor Starbird.

The food bank says that one of the obstacles that prevents needy families from getting food stamp assistance is that California is one of four states that require fingerprinting before you can apply for food stamps.

The state mandated fingerprinting to fight fraud, and less than half of the families eligible for food stamps are in the program. California loses more than $94 million a year in federal food stamp assistance for those families.


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