Bay Area food banks in need of donations

November 21, 2008 7:18:31 PM PST
Charities around the region have been struggling to collect donations this holiday season. One food bank in particular has been especially busy fielding calls from people in need.

The emergency hotline phones at the Alameda County Community Food Bank haven't stopped ringing. There's been a 39 percent increase in calls from last year.

Volunteer Joannie Semitekol doesn't need to see the faces of the callers to know how desperate they are.

"When a mother calls and says there's no food in the house today, yeah, that message gets through," said Semitekol.

On the other end of the line, it's people like Joe McMichael, a father of two who was recently laid off.

"I am not turning down nothing. Winter time is coming, it's here," said McMichael.

Or Alfreda Benjamin, who is on disability and out of work.

"I'm not sure what I got. I just put it in the car, but whatever it is I'm thankful for," said Benjamin.

They called the food bank's emergency hotline and were sent to Oakland's Columbian Gardens, where Lurlean Jackson was glad to help.

"Desperate is the word," said Jackson.

She's run the center since 1977, and says people seem to be struggling more this year than ever. With Thanksgiving less than a week away, her pantry shelves are almost bare.

She's hoping to get more from the food bank.

Brian Higgins is the Alameda County Food Bank spokesman.

"To put it mildly, yeah, we're reliant on food donations," said Higgins.

Last holiday season the food bank collected more than 623,000 pounds of food. This year, the goal is 750,000 pounds.

It's too early to tell whether they'll reach the goal. The food bank is depending on people to drop food into barrels. Safeway AND ABC7 have partnered to collect that food and get it right back to the food bank's warehouse.

But there is one thing that won't be in the emergency baskets for Thanksgiving dinner.

"I couldn't find anyone to donate turkeys," said Jackson.

She'll hand out Thanksgiving chickens instead.


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