Foodstuff pantries in Berkeley and Alameda County still want your aid

Page Ventresca
Henry, a volunteer, waits to fill a shopper’s order in entrance of two significant boxes made up of unexpected emergency food luggage at the Berkeley Food items Network. File photograph: Pete Rosos

Mary Sabr is a 49-calendar year-outdated South Berkeley resident in remission from most cancers and living with a disability. This earlier calendar year has shipped some disagreeable surprises – the necessary halt to relatives speak to and a major raise in her gas-and-electric powered monthly bill, for case in point – but a single thing she could rely on was grocery restocks from the Berkeley Food items Pantry and other area foods banking companies.

“To be truthful, they give me so a great deal food items I can share it with my neighbors. It’s equivalent to, say, three Macy’s buying baggage of food” a thirty day period, she claims.

It’s nutritious things, too, like vegetables, grains and poultry sourced from marketplaces she does not store at for monetary factors. “With the income I acquire from disability, I’m in a position to go to Trader Joe’s and obtain groceries, no problem,” Sabr suggests. “I simply cannot manage Whole Foodstuff. When I see objects from Total Food items it is like, ‘Wow, this is genuinely nice.’”

While there are lots of awful pandemic narratives in the Bay Place, maybe just one of the great ones is how nicely foods financial institutions and pantries weathered the crisis. There was a period of uncertainty when COVID-19 1st hit. Food items companies competed for the exact scarce assets and faced disruptions in the source chain. But most speedily tailored, and in some cases have come to be stronger and greater prepared for the subsequent disaster.

“This was possibly the most hard factor we’ve ever confronted in 36 decades of business,” suggests Michael Altfest, director of community engagement and promoting for the Alameda County Community Food items Financial institution. “We had to improve immensely quickly and we’re an completely various food stuff financial institution than we have been a 12 months and a fifty percent in the past. We’ve enhanced our personnel by 20 or so employees, and we’re putting out about 2 times the sum of food items as prior to COVID.”

Sadly, an expanded client base brings its possess complications. Donations and volunteering surged throughout COVID. Now, food vendors are worried about shriveling engagement as extra and far more people today perspective the pandemic as owning ended.

“The meals programming is really not slowing down – the assist is,” says Altfest. “If that maintains for a although, we will be in trouble.”

People taking in their breakfast in the back again parking good deal entrance of the Dorothy Day Property in March 2020. File photo: Pete Rosos

The Dorothy Day Residence in Berkeley provides standard expert services these as showers and foods to unhoused individuals. When the lockdown started, the business identified itself obtaining to speedily switch up operations. “We had to modify from feeding persons inside of to every little thing to-go,” states Bob Whalen, procurement supervisor and volunteer coordinator. “It was just like the dining establishments, the only change currently being their guest counts went down whereas ours went up.”

Dorothy Day faced a swell of unhoused men and women who abruptly were locked out of inside of areas like libraries and senior facilities. Fortunately, a new crop of youngsters and locals who experienced totally free time due to doing work from property or losing their positions arrived to volunteer. “Almost to a individual, they stepped in and loaded all those spaces within two weeks. It was really unbelievable to see that occur.”

The Berkeley Food items Pantry will help provide groceries to foodstuff-insecure people in Berkeley, who selection around 24,000, which equates to about a fifth of the city’s inhabitants (although the pantry also serves individuals in Albany). The rate of men and women coming for meals for the to start with time far more than doubled as a new group of clientele started exhibiting up.

“We did see far more people today you would consider of as center-course,” suggests pantry director Dharma Galang. “I think a good deal of individuals had misplaced positions. There were being some who uncovered on their own in a predicament where they may possibly have experienced personal savings, but they’d gone via the price savings and arrived to us.”

Donations and volunteers also surged, however, and the pantry was able to increase its functions and include new solutions like at-residence deliveries. Now it’s back to serving its much more-standard customer foundation of individuals who are disabled, working people with youthful youngsters and university pupils. (Parents could possibly be shocked to study 39% of UC Berkeley undergrads encounter food items insecurity.)

Galang believes the pantry will have its hands full extended right after the pandemic winds down, many thanks to the severe mother nature of Bay Space housing. “People should really truly only [need to] appear to us if they are unemployed or if there is something occurring which is out of command and it’s a one-time factor. COVID was a wonderful example of that – it was an unexpected emergency,” she suggests. “But higher housing charges are an ongoing issue that will in no way go away. It would be wonderful if the region figured it out so we wouldn’t be forced to serve folks who seriously should not have to appear to us.”

The Berkeley Food Network also saw a growth in business enterprise – going from feeding 1,600 purchasers a week in 2019 to about 5,000 right now – partly because of to beefed-up operations and partnering with other organizations for the duration of the disaster. But extra prospects means additional charges, and the firm is involved about the months in advance.

“One of the huge challenges we’re seeing is that whilst the Berkeley community was very generous previous 12 months and a reasonable range of persons have resolved to give us with common donations, we are genuinely not looking at the similar level of help as we did final 12 months,” claims Sara Webber, the network’s govt director. “We need men and women to know we’re continue to feeding the identical number of individuals and we would actually welcome their participation as donors or volunteers, since it is a quite large carry.”

Sarah Palmer takes a shipping and delivery of frisee from Geoff Palla from the Edible Schoolyard for the Berkeley Foodstuff Network. File photograph: Pete Rosos

Keeping pandemic-stage help is “probably our biggest problem correct now,” claims Altfest of the Alameda food stuff financial institution. The corporation has gone from distributing roughly 2.7 million pounds of foodstuff a month in 2019 to about 5 million a month this 12 months, which looks to be the new usual. 

However fundraising this April and May possibly fell small by $14 million compared to the very same time period past year. That’s not good contemplating the reverberations from COVID will be felt for some time to come. “As the earth is beginning to return to some little bit of normalcy, we know that it’s heading to be a much longer, steeper climb out of this for the communities we’re typically serving,” Altfest suggests. 

Quite a few folks have accrued unbelievable amounts of credit card debt. And California food items banks are holding their breath looking at what will take place if the eviction moratorium finishes this calendar year. Roughly 810,000 households in the state owe an common of $4,400 in unpaid lease, according to the Nationwide Fairness Atlas.

“Knowing what California looks like, that’s heading to be a whole lot bigger listed here in the Bay Area,” suggests Altfest. “What generally takes place in a performing domestic is it is compelled to make very dreadful conclusions. Folks are likely to retain a roof in excess of their heads, they are likely to keep fuel in their car or truck to get to perform, and maintain the lights on in their dwelling.

“Food is the to start with and least complicated put for people to slice, commonly. Which is wherever we can come in and make absolutely sure that does not happen.”

Here’s guidance about supplying absent surplus food items in your pantry. You can donate to the Alameda County Group Foodstuff Financial institution, the Berkeley Foodstuff Pantry, Dorothy Working day Home and the Berkeley Foods Network.

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