Desperately seeking food in California
March 19, 2010
More and more Californians are going hungry, a situation that is likely to worsen in a state rocked by recession and high unemployment. [California Watch]
A six-month study by California Watch and USC found record numbers of people overwhelming food banks and county social services offices across the state.
In 2009, California food banks distributed 300 million pounds of meals and surplus commodities–roughly eight pounds for every Californian and representing a 30 percent increase over 2008.
The numbers are being played out across the state. Los Angeles has seen a 46 percent increase since 2005 of people seeking food assistance from soup kitchens, shelters, and food pantries. In Monterey, the numbers have nearly doubled.
Fresno’s Community Bank gave out 6 million pounds of food in 2008, 14 million pounds last year, and expects to distribute 30 million pounds this year.
At the same time, experts claim that vast amounts of nutritious, edible food is being thrown away. A report by the California Waste Management Board found that more than six million tons of food was either plowed under by farmers, or dumped by grocers and restaurants.
A separate study by UCLA reports more than 2.8 million families statewide currently are struggling to eat–the total population of these households reaches 11.3 million, representing one out of every four Californians. However, experts point out that the UCLA data is based on 2007 surveys–before the true impact of the recession hit–and they expect the numbers to be much high today.
All this comes against an uncertain political backdrop in Sacramento. The California Health and Human Services Agency is proposing a 16-percent cut across the board for fiscal year 2010-2011. Such actions are likely to put key programs at risk, including CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program.
“This is not a recession–it’s a depression,” said one Humboldt County food bank executive. “There’s a level of desperation out there I haven’t seen before. And I’ve been doing this for 30 years.”