On Monday, July 16, only about half the warehouse floor space was stacked with pallets that stood only about 6 to 8 feet tall.
“This is the slower time of year for us, but two months ago, this place was filled, and we were storing pallets in the back rooms,” said Quinn, the director of the nonprofit at 311 W. Grant Line Road. “The organization is well trusted in the community, and so far, people have stepped up to the plate and helped us and kept us going, but it’s constant working to keep it that way.”
According to Quinn, Interfaith’s stock is boosted by food drives in the community and school system during the spring and fall. But those donations are now being received by people who aren’t typically associated with food banks.
“They are kids and working people and maybe your neighbor or your friend,” she said. “The face of hunger has changed. It’s not just homeless people. It’s people with jobs and families.”
New data from 2007 to 2009 shows that nearly 67,000 people (39 percent) in San Joaquin County experience food insecurity — reducing or forgoing a meal at least once a year to pay for other expenses, according to recent study released by the University of California, Los Angeles Center for Public Policy Research.
San Joaquin County had 685,306 residents in 2010, according to the U.S. Census conducted that year.
The research center used data collected by the California Health Interview Survey from 2001 to 2009 to determine that about 40 percent of Californians in 2009 had food insecurity, an increase from 29 percent in 2001. Data was available only at the county level.
Statewide, more than 3.7 million people the state experienced food insecurity in 2009. California has a population of more than 36.6 million people, according to a December 2011 population estimate by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Food insecurity grew during the great recession of 2007 to 2009, the study suggests. The state’s unemployment increased from 5 to 11 percent in 2009, while the inflation-adjusted median income decreased by nearly 5 percent from 2009 to 2010 — the largest decline on record, the study notes.
Northern Bay Area counties saw the greatest increase in food insecurity during 2007 to 2009 (14 percent), while Southern California counties experienced the lowest increase (10 percent).
Gail Harrison, a co-author of the study and faculty associate at the research center, stated in a press release that a slow economic recovery isn’t helping this group.
“With the economy still in a slump, many families are grappling with difficult choices: ‘Do I pay the bills or buy food to feed my children?’” she stated. “In a state that is the nation’s breadbasket, it’s sad to see that so many people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.”
Mike Mallory, the director of Second Harvest Food Bank in Manteca, said he believed layoffs and foreclosures were sending more low-income adults to food banks.
He noted that Second Harvest is a distribution center that supplies 180 churches, two food programs and more than 6,000 seniors and students with more than 12 million pounds of food a month.
“The scary part is people don’t know the face of hunger anymore, because it changed, and it now affects a lot more people than we realize,” he said. “It’s not like it used to be.”
Mallory said Second Harvest taps into about 120 million pounds of produce from sources in the Central Valley to distribute regionally. But he noted that the program — run by the California Food Bank Association dubbed “Farm to Family” — must receive orders six months in advance, and his group must be ready to distribute the supplies.
The program allows for price breaks on produce, Mallory said, that can lower the cost of vegetables to six to 20 cents a pound.
“We can get as much as we want, but we have to fulfill our orders and then make sure we have the network to distribute it to the churches, groups and the people,” he said. “If no one comes forward to receive it, it won’t be around. So we need to take advantage of what’s right in our own backyard.”
Such food partnerships are “incredibly” important, Mallory said.
The study found that from 2001 to 2009, people receiving assistance from Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, didn’t experience an increase in food insecurity.
The study notes that S.N.A.P. benefits were boosted by 17 percent in 2009 with the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but that those increased funds will end in 2013.
An increased effort to enroll low-income Californians in food assistance, including free breakfasts and lunches at schools, is needed to offset the spread of food insecurity, the study recommended. Only 1 million of the state’s 6 million eligible students are enrolled for nutrition assistance at schools, the study states.
“Without the ARRA, many Californians would be much deeper in poverty,” Harrison said. “And with millions of Californians still struggling economically, 2013 is too soon to consider ending this important life support for our poorest residents.”
• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.