South Bay food banks work to meet increased demand amid high prices, inflation this holiday season

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Saturday, November 12, 2022
South Bay food banks work to meet increased demand this holiday
With the holiday season upon us, food distribution agencies in San Jose are gearing up for an increase in demand amid rising costs and inflation.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Just as Bay Area food banks mobilized to manage demand under the COVID-19 pandemic, they are now meeting the ongoing pressure of serving more people with the added impact of inflation.

With holiday season upon us, food distribution agencies are gearing up for increased demand amid rising costs.

"This is a particularly challenging time," Tracey Weatherby, VP of strategy and advocacy for Second Harvest of Silicon Valley told ABC7 News. "We did a recent client survey and over 60% of our clients reported having less than $250 in savings."

Weatherby said food budgets are typically the first place people economize to make ends meet.

Food insecurity, no doubt, was highlighted and heightened during the pandemic. It was a time when Second Harvest saw demand double to 500,000 people each month.

"It went down to about 400,000 people last year, and we thought that was maybe the new normal," she described. "But with inflation and gas prices, and everything that's happening with the economy, we're now up around 450,000 people every month."

MORE: Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano sees increase of 100K people per month needing food

A real-time reflection, Weatherby described.

Federal data shows grocery prices have jumped 12.4% since the start of the year. Egg prices alone are up 43%. And with two weeks to Thanksgiving, the countdown is on to make every dollar count.

"What we're trying to do is alleviate a little bit of that suffering during the holiday season," Demone Carter with Sacred Heart Community Service said.

He said the goal between Thanksgiving and Christmas is for Sacred Heart to distribute 18,500 food boxes. They're asking people to help complete the holiday meal by donating.

"We really need turkeys. We've heard there's some issues with supply chain and poultry flus, and things like that. So they're not as quite as easy to come by as they may have been in previous years," he shared. "Frozen chickens, hams, turkeys, canned goods - especially those with pop tops are very much in need during this holiday season."

Of course, these organizations aren't immune to the issues. Many have to factor in gas prices, and driving to get food to the distributions, and the food itself.

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It's almost that time when the turkey is in the oven and family is coming over to celebrate the holidays. However, this year, that turkey is going to eat up more of your money.

"We are seeing a lot of the same challenges that our clients are," Weatherby told ABC7 News. "Cost of food is going up for us, cost of gas and freight to get our food to the distributions where it needs to be is increasing."

Costs adding up, all while attempting to meet increased need.

"It is a heavy push for us, but we do got a lot of people behind us," Pastor Ralph Olmos with Lighthouse Food Rescue and Distribution said.

It's a smaller operation in the heart of San Jose's Northside neighborhood, which expects to help 15,000 people for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Olmos said it's an effort made possible through partnerships with grocers and other nonprofits.

"We rely strongly upon grocery stores. So, the partnerships with Safeway, Grocery Outlet, Lunardi's, Trader Joe's - those who are big go-to's," he described.

MORE: Inflation busters: ALDI, Walmart rolling back the clock on prices for Thanksgiving staples

The pastor said independent partners also include Second Harvest and many others.

"It's a lot of sharing. Sharing resources," he said. "Because some may get big bulk of turkeys, and some may get a big bulk of mashed potatoes. And it's like, either one has one piece, and one has the other."

"So we really have to come together in order to really kind of push out a good meal," Pastor Olmos described.

Beyond donations, each organization said volunteers are also needed and welcomed.

For more information on Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, click here.

For more information on Sacred Heart Community Service, click here.

For more information on Lighthouse Food Rescue and Distribution, click here.

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