CONTRA COSTA COUNTY, CA (Nov. 9, 2023) — With food as the centerpiece of upcoming celebrations, its absence becomes even more real as advertisers plaster television airways with delicious imagery of the must haves for those festive occasions during November and December.
The Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano, along with its partnering agencies, has already seen an increase in the need due to several factors, including the cost of living and food, as well as the ending of pandemic-era benefits. The groups serve an average of 465,000 residents a month.
“We are anticipating these numbers to spike as we approach the holiday season by approximately 20%, based off of our increase observed from last year,” said Food Bank spokesperson Krystine Dinh. “We’re prepared to serve our community however they may need us.”
She noted that earlier this year, more than 75,000 households in Contra Costa and Solano counties were impacted by cuts in pandemic-era benefits, such as emergency allotments. These households experienced more than $6 million in total loss of benefits.
“We consider this one of the key reasons why we’ve been seeing an increase in need and new faces at our distribution sites,” said Dinh. “Erosion of the safety net as families grapple with continued inflation is deeply concerning.”
Rising community demand
Among those seeing it firsthand is Jeff Bell of Lafayette, who has volunteered in the warehouse sorting and more recently serving in Concord with the Food Bank’s mobile food distribution service at its new Wednesday location off Systron Drive.
He has observed the uptick in community demand during past holiday seasons and anticipates the same this year, citing the persistent rise in inflation which hits those living on the margins even more acutely – especially with rising food prices.
So as 2023 winds to a close, there is no area where the Food Bank is turning away support, whether it’s folks seeking to volunteer, food donations or monetary gifts.
Current volunteers number over 8,000. Last year, they accounted for more than 100,000 hours.
Individuals and families can check out the Food Bank’s portal at www.volunteer.foodbankccs.org to see shifts that are available and what roles volunteers can fill.
“We ask that supporters interested in volunteering look into volunteer shifts after the holidays are over, as we often see a dip in volunteer interest at the beginning of the year,” Dinh said.
Host a food drive
Smaller quantities of nonperishable food can be dropped off at the Concord warehouse, 4010 Nelson Ave., or put in barrels positioned inside local supermarkets. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for nearby barrel locations. Those interested in hosting a food drive can submit an inquiry.
Monetary help is just as critical to ensure the work gets done. It’s just a click away at www.foodbankccs.org/give-help/donate. Any amount can make a big difference, as every $1 provides at least two meals for our neighbors in need, Dinh said.
As the new year approaches, advocates remind the public to keep hunger front and center in the minds of their representatives in Sacramento. The need doesn’t get packed away with the holiday decorations or picked up on trash day.
“We urge our representatives to author bills related to food security and food banks for the 2024 state legislative cycle – to strengthen our safety net and solve food insecurity systemically,” Dinh said.
To support the Food Bank this holiday season, go to foodbankccs.org and click on donate.
David Scholz is back in journalism as a freelance writer and photographer after nearly two decades in education. Prior to moving into teaching in 2000, he worked as a full-time journalist since 1988 for rural community and small daily newspapers in Central Ohio and Northern Nevada, and later in California with The Business Journal in Fresno and dailies in the Bay Area, including The Oakland Tribune and The San Francisco Chronicle. More recently Scholz also worked in an editing, writing, and page layout role with the Rossmoor News.