Bay Area food banks see demand skyrocket in 2020 as new families seek help amid COVID-19

PLEASANTON, Calif. (KGO) -- It's one of the enduring images of 2020, people lining up for food, many reaching out for help for the first time on Thursday at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

For the Alameda County Community Food Bank, meeting this exponential demand has been a huge challenge.

"We've seen unprecedented spikes in need," says Michael Altfest with the Alameda County Community Food Bank. "We almost overnight saw a thousand percent increase in calls to our food help line. We're now distributing 50 to 70 percent more food now than we were this time last year."

Many of the people waiting in line on New Year's Eve at this food drive are not just getting food for themselves, but also for others.

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"The boxes we get, we share with our neighbors," says Roberta Crawford. "We have some neighbors that can't get out and this is real important. It helps a lot of people."

The huge increase in demand for food in Alameda County since the COVID-19 pandemic began is being reflected in food banks and nonprofits all over the Bay Area.

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Second Harvest Food Bank in the South Bay has doubled its food distribution since March, while struggling to keep enough in-person volunteers on its rolls.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank now serves 55,000 households per week while the Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano now provides food for 100,000 more people per month since the pandemic hit.

Thankfully, the community and corporate partners have stepped up their donations.

GIVE WHERE YOU LIVE: Donate to Bay Area food banks

But at the same time, the cost of buying food for the organization has skyrocketed.

"We are now spending a $1.5 to $2 million on food every month," says Altfest. "This time last year, that was about $400,000."

While rising to meet the needs of many households, Bay Area food banks are hoping the new year brings many people out of the darkness that marked so much of 2020.

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A San Francisco Firefighter dropped off a $10,000 check Thursday morning at the San Francisco-Marin food bank, money she raised from selling t-shirts and masks.

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