Thousands turning to food banks for help

December 22, 2008 6:41:04 PM PST
Tens-of-thousands of Bay Area families have been hard hit by this recession.

Many of the newly-unemployed are now seeking help from the last place many of them thought they would see the inside of, food banks.

In Santa Clara County, one of the wealthiest in the Bay Area the Sacred Heart Community Service Center has seen an increase of almost 40 percent in new clients.

Volunteers at the service center are handing out thousands of pounds of food to needy clients. The food boxes packed with holiday meals mean a lot to those who never had to ask for a handout before, like Jackie Vantrease who is also a new mom.

"This is the first time I've had to come here. I've never had to do this before and it was really hard for me," she said.

William Cintron, a contractor, was laid off last summer. He is a single dad with three daughters.

"If it wasn't for Sacred Heart helping us, I don't know what I would do. So, I'm thankful for that," he said.

Sacred Heart expects to give out more than 2700 holiday food boxes Monday and Tuesday, helping to provide food for about 8000 people.

Kimberly Abate of Sacred Heart knows serving those many new faces creates a challenge.

"I think there has been about a 37 percent increase in new customers coming to ask for help within the past few months," she said.

"I was laid off from my job. I also became disabledd and I need some food," said Bruce Roberts, a technical writer laid off in august. "Relatives can't really help, my rent went up and I'm living off of savings."

Besides lost jobs, personal matters like divorces and disabilities have drawn many people to Sacred Heart. Their needs have also attracted many people who have donated their time and effort.

Sacred Heart says they have gotten so many volunteers they had to turn many of them away. In some cases entire families came to help out.

Cynthia Teeple, her two children and five members of the Huerta family helped out Monday.

"It's always a good thing to bring the kids. They have fun," said Joel Huerta, adding that he did not have to convince them.

While Sacred Heart has enough food for the holidays, the need they fill will continue well into next year.


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