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Inflation, growing demand putting pressure on Bay Area food banks

Tech layoffs, inflation place new challenges on Bay Area food banks
Tech layoffs, inflation place new challenges on Bay Area food banks 02:41

SANTA CLARA -- A combination of soaring prices and an increase in demand has pressure mounting on food banks in the South Bay.

"After we had a little bit of a dip about 18 months ago, as soon as inflation hit, we started to see those numbers rise again," said Leslie Bacho of Second Harvest Food Bank.

Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley
Second Harvest Food Bank of Silicon Valley CBS

Bacho says the food bank serves an average of 460,000 people a month in Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. But last month, the food bank served 480,000.

"So, we are still serving almost as many people as we were serving during the height of the pandemic, even though we have much less funding from the government. And our costs are up," she said.

Teresa Rodriguez is a stay-at-home mom who must care for her children including an autistic son. Her husband and older son are construction workers.

But they don't earn enough to pay rent on a small house in San Jose and provide enough food for the family. So Teresa turns to food banks twice a month.

"The pandemic marked a very clear before and after period for our family,"  Rodriguez said. "The need has gone up since the pandemic and for that reason it's important to have these services for our family."

Food banks like Second Harvest have mostly relied on private donations to survive, but Supervisor Cindy Chavez says the greater and longer lasting needs are calling for an improved food distribution model, including more assistance from cities and counties.

This month, the Santa Clara Board of Supervisors approved giving Second Harvest a one-time, a $1.2 million grant from the American Rescue Plan.

"There's an opportunity for all of us to step up our game," Chavez said. "Not just writing checks, but really making sure that we're not wasting food and that we're doing a better job of sharing it."

She said future plans could also include policy and land use changes to allow for more local farming of food that will stay right here in our own communities.

Teresa said she longs for the days when she will no longer need food assistance for her family, but she's grateful it is here when she needs it.

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