Food access gets worse in this Bay Area county as inflation hits 40-year high

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, November 24, 2022
This Bay Area county struggles the most with access to food
As inflation hits a 40-year high, food insecurity is getting worse across the country this holiday season -- especially in one Bay Area county.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- As inflation hits a 40-year high, food insecurity is getting worse across the country this holiday season -- especially in one Bay Area county.

An analysis by the ABC7 News I-Team identified 600 neighborhoods across the San Francisco metro area with low food access, also referred to as a "food desert." A food desert is defined by the USDA as a neighborhood where at least one-third of the area's population is living more than a half-mile from the closest supermarket or large grocery store in urban areas or 10 miles in rural areas.

"We seldom go out for groceries because the prices are too high," said Carmen Magugat, San Francisco resident.

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The San Francisco senior shares a studio in the city's SOMA district. Nearly 80% of her $700 monthly social security stipend goes towards rent.

"The rest is for food and medicine. How can you survive?" Magugat said.

Inflation is forcing her to make another tough choice: rationing her food.

"We have to limit the portions -- only small portions," she told ABC7 News.

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The I-Team found out of the 980 census tracts in the SF metro area, 61% are defined as having low food access or called food deserts and 17% are designated as both low food access and low income, the most reported in Alameda County.

"I walk about two or three miles to get food," said Natasha Hardman, an Oakland resident the I-Team profiled last year.

Since this story, the Alameda County Community Food Bank added food distribution sites to areas known to be food deserts. In total, the agency is offering 400 food sites across the county.

"You'll see a lot of our food is going into those cities to ensure those gaps are met," said Michael Altfest, the agency's spokesperson.

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According to the California Health Interview Survey, over the past five years more than one-third of adults 18 years and older living below the federal poverty line in Alameda County haven't been able to afford enough food. Last year, around 57% of those impacted were Hispanic or Latino, nearly 40% were African American, 22% were Asian, and 20% were white.

"We think that the need in the county is pretty on par with the height of the pandemic," said Altfest, adding inflation is to blame.

Even the Alameda County Community Food Bank is struggling to provide as the agency's holiday budget is up 50% his year. The U.S. inflation rate hit a 40-year high this year hovering around 7%.

"Typically, the feds like to sit around 2% inflation," said Justin Rietz, a San Jose State economics professor.

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Rietz says rising prices will soon start to level off, but warns we shouldn't get too comfortable.

"That doesn't mean prices are going to drop back down," Rietz said. "So we're going to have to get used to higher prices. The idea is just not to have them increasing as quickly."

Leaving people like Carmen left to worry.

"We're struggling," she said.

You can take a closer look at the nearly 900 food deserts identified across the Bay Area here.

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