‘This is not what a food bank was designed to do’
California food banks are struggling with an overwhelming need and ongoing recession.
On a recent Thursday morning, a drive-through food bank popped up on the campus of Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento, California. Participants picked up bags of rice, canned chicken and fresh broccoli, all while following social distancing guidelines. In just two hours, enough grocery boxes to feed approximately 4,000 people slid from the gloved hands of staff and volunteers into backseats or car trunks. People drove home with produce from local farms, fresh meat, and nonperishables from across the state.
Serving 8,000 people weekly at two locations, the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services drive-through operation is just one example of Northern California’s response to high food insecurity, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. “You have so many people that have been displaced from work, you have so many single moms with children at home, and you have so many isolated seniors, that the demand for services has just gone through the roof,” Blake Young, the organization’s president and CEO for 15 years, said. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the organization served approximately 150,000 people each month. In April and May, that number went up to more than 300,000 people.
But the worst may be yet to come, thanks to the ongoing recession. Regional food banks, which are designed to be safety nets, not main sources of food, fear that they won’t be able to meet the swelling need.
“It’s hard to predict how long this is going to last, but we are looking at beyond this year and into next year in terms of the demand,” Young said. “We’re really focused on sustainability, because no food bank can sustain — “ he paused. “This is not what a food bank was designed to do.”