The Impact of Local Food Banks

Rayna Basa, Features Section Editor

Every day, hundreds of families travel to their local food bank in hopes of finding a sufficient meal while millions more do the same across the nation. In Sacramento alone, 88,762 people go to surrounding pantries and organizations that provide food and housing.

Food banks typically collect donated goods and give them to the community on a daily or weekly basis. After the financial collapse of 2008, it was difficult for many families, especially of low-income to regain balance– approximately 12 percent of people are out of work in the Sacramento County, according to River City Food Bank.

With over 40 food banks located throughout California, the California Association of Food Banks (CAFB) has developed many programs including a nutrition education program, Farm to Family program, Produce Education program, as well as advocated for the establishment of the State Emergency Food Assistance Program. Food banks are critical in providing for more than two million people in need within California, according to CAFB.

In Folsom, St. Vincent de Paul gathers donations of food (perishable and non-perishable), clothing, diapers, as well as other necessities at no cost in order to support families who cannot acquire these items.

Food banks are not the only organizations that provide help to those in need. Powerhouse Ministries, located in Folsom, serves about 1000 families a year. “We provide emergency food for the homeless but we specialize in long-term care for those whose lives have been affected by homelessness, addiction, crime or poverty,” said Nancy Atchley, Lead Pastor and Executive Director of Powerhouse Ministries.

“…there were no other services for low-income families except for the Twin Lakes Food Bank…[and] housing was substandard. Today, we have low-income housing that provides on-site resident services and well maintained buildings [sic],” said Atchley.

Family Supportive Housing, located in San Jose, helps those who struggle to find affordable housing or job opportunities.  “[Family Supportive Housing] offers temporary housing…for families for a period of up to 3 months to help them get back on their feet,” said Clara Lim, a volunteer. “We purchase, bring, prepare, and serve food to a range of 10-25 families during lunchtime on a Saturday.”

Aside from being an essential source of food and other goods, many clients feel ashamed that they get their meals at food banks and other organizations. People lable the clients as “lazy” or “unproductive”; however, of the approximate 643,067 people facing homelessness in America, 25 percent face mental illness, 13 percent escape domestic violence and 12 percent are veterans, according to Green Doors. When visiting local food banks, the stereotypical image of a homeless person on the street can differ greatly from the people who actually receive help from these organizations.

“There are many people who are homeless that look like you and me, or in other words, the average person,” said Lim. Growing up as a welfare child, Lim would receive a basket of food from food banks, allowing her to understand many of these families’ situations.

Despite the introduction of food banks and an increase in awareness of food insecurity, 12.6 percent of Californians continue to face food insecurity, according to CAFB. By providing meals and shelter, food banks along with other associations continue to help prevent hunger, diseases along with other future health issues due to skipping meals.

Those who put time and effort into these organizations expect nothing in return and appreciate a simple sign of gratitude. “It feels like being on the receiving end of this act at one time and being able to return it back exponentially is a clear example of how even one small volunteer activity can make a much bigger, long-term impact,” said Lim.