'Unprecedented surge': Alameda County Food Bank says need for assistance exploding amid COVID-19 pandemic

ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Alameda County Food Bank has opened a pop-up drive through food distribution center to respond to the need created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Once this emergency took hold, we started to see an incredible, unprecedented surge of need in this community. People started coming to our facility, calls to our help line increased by literally 1,000 percent, within a week," said food bank spokesperson Michael Altfest.

He says the number of people who show up each time they open the center continues to grow.

"In under two weeks, this distribution center went from about 30 households to 600-700 households. So we are expecting every distribution to be about that many people," he said Wednesday morning.

Recipients don't have to touch anything or come face to face with anyone. At one stop, workers put a box of non- perishables in the trunk. At another stop, they get produce. Those working say seeing cars lined up waiting to get in really puts the need in perspective.

"I feel really bad. There's a lot of people, a lot of families. They just they don't have a voice. You see what you see on TV and there's a lot of behind the scenes things that you don't see and right here is the behind the scenes," said volunteer Randy Wells.
The food bank is paying for the food right now with emergency funds. But they do worry about how long that money will last.

"This is going to be a prolonged response. We are planning months out and we do need community support for the entirety of this to keep meeting the need," Altfest said.

Organizers do not want the pop-up location revealed. They have several distribution locations and different times and want to spread people out and not overwhelm sites.

If you need help, all they ask is that you call 1-800- 870-3663 (FOOD) and get assigned a location.

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