Marin food security remains tenuous due to pandemic and inflation

Despite the pandemic easing, food insecurity remains high in Marin, and local nonprofits such as the San Francisco Marin Food Bank face many challenges in responding.

“Between inflation and the lingering economic impact of COVID-19, low- and middle-income families are struggling,” said Tanis Crosby, executive director of the San Francisco Marin Food Bank, in a statement. We are struggling to keep up with rising costs, just as millions of people rely on us.”

Last year, the food bank, which supplies 47 pantries throughout the county, delivered 6 million meals in Marin.

Will Ditmar, Executive Director of ExtraFood, wrote in an email: With soaring demand for our services and a lack of resources, everyone is going through a difficult time. “

A non-profit organization in San Rafael that receives excess fresh food from businesses and organizations and delivers it to non-profit organizations that serve the poor and hungry.

Barbara Abbott, the food bank’s vice president of supply chain, said at the peak of the pandemic, the food bank was serving 64,000 households a week. This is up from her 32,000 households before the health emergency began.

During the summer, that number dropped to about 52,000 households a week. However, due to inflation, this number jumped to 56,000 households per week in the last three months.

“Because of inflation, more and more people need our services,” Abbott said.

One of the food pantries that the food bank brings to Marin is located at the North Marin Community Services office in Novato.

Cheryl Paddack, CEO of North Marin Community Services, said:

Paddack said the fluctuation in the number of households using Novato pantries is consistent with overall demand for food bank services. After a dramatic increase from 125 homes a week before the pandemic to about 400 a week, that number dropped slightly before rising again when inflation kicked in, Paddak said. Currently, approximately 350 households use the pantry each week.

In addition to increasing demand for services, inflation is increasing food costs for food banks. More than 60% of the food his food bank supplies to his local pantry is fresh produce, and the cost of that food has doubled for him in recent months. Chicken prices have more than doubled. The cost of eggs he has risen by 88%. Rice prices have risen by 63% he said.

I’m also concerned about fuel costs. Abbott said food banks typically spent about $20,000 a month on fuel for delivery vehicles. We currently spend about $32,000 a month.

Stephanie McNally, director of healthy aging services at Vivalon, said fuel costs are rising at her organization. Vivalon has signed a deal with Marin County to deliver her 105,000 meals to Marin residents over the age of 60 who are unable to drive during the current fiscal year.

Marin County Director of Social Services Kari Beuerman wrote in an email:

This year, food banks also received 25% less food from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) than last year. His USDA support for food banks, which increased during his first two years of the pandemic, has been curtailed.

“So we had to buy more food than we used to,” Abbott said. “It’s not sustainable.”

There are a number of offshore government changes related to CalFresh’s food assistance program that may impact demand for food bank services.

Also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or Food Stamps, CalFresh provides eligible applicants with an electronic benefit transfer card that can be used like a debit card at participating grocery stores and farmers markets.

Pandemic emergency quotas were approved, allowing CalFresh recipients to receive far greater benefits than their previous entitlements. For example, one of her individuals, who would normally be entitled to $30 a month based on income, was now eligible for assistance of up to $250 a month.

Once the federal public health emergency is lifted, the old rules will apply. Currently, the emergency he is due to expire on January 11th. However, Beuerman expects the emergency to be renewed for another 90 days at that point.

“We don’t know when the federal public health emergency will end,” Beuerman wrote in an email. allocations are expected to be significantly reduced in some cases.”

Since the pandemic began, the number of Marin residents receiving CalFresh benefits has increased steadily, from 6,449 households in October 2019 to 9,522 households in October 2022.

The $1.7 trillion gross spending bill, which both houses of Congress approved last week, is awaiting signature by President Biden to eliminate pandemic-era food stamp benefits increases. The bill instead provides funds to feed children in low-income families during the summer.

Beginning in the summer of 2024, low-income households will be eligible for a $40 monthly food benefit per child. Critics of the move say it will hit poorer seniors the hardest, who are less eligible for food aid because of their smaller household sizes and higher savings.

“From our perspective, funding summer meals is important,” said food bank spokesperson Keely Hopkins.

The food bank hopes to make up for some of the higher costs with tax-deductible donations by the end of this year.

“We need community support more than ever,” said Crosby. “Especially because we need to raise more than half of our annual budget by December 31st.”

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