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Feeding Our Community

As COVID emergency declarations end, state assistance programs to help residents weather the pandemic are beginning to sunset. The COVID pandemic widened income inequality across California, with the gap between high- and low-income families being one of the largest in the nation.

Low-wage workers have been slow to recover from the pandemic, as many industries – like our local shops and restaurants – were closed to customers for over a year or shuttered completely. With inflation rising, the cost of food is quickly outpacing the incomes of many working people.

That impact is certainly felt in San Francisco, where many are struggling to keep up with the cost of living increasing. Beginning last month, CalFresh benefits, the state’s version of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), were reduced. The San Francisco Human Services Agency estimates that approximately 70,000 households relying on CalFresh benefits will lose a total of $11.5 million per month, with individuals losing between $95 and $517 per month. With benefits expiring, the need for food pantries, like the ones provided by the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, will see a drastic increase from food insecure residents.

And now, with the significant increases in food cost and loss of CalFresh benefits, many of our community partners are facing the next wave of challenges to feed our communities. On top of this challenge, SF-Marin Food Bank’s pop-up food pantries are also facing the threat of potential closure. The SF Recreation and Park Department claims the Food Bank’s permit will expire at the end of May due to San Francisco’s emergency order ending. They have yet to offer an alternative site or extend the permit. Over the past year, the Food Bank has faced difficulty in locating a new location to host its pop-up food pantry, and if closed, about 2,500 families who rely on their services will be turned away. In the Richmond District alone, more than 600 families per week will lose food supplements and go hungry.

I am so grateful to our neighborhood partners who help feed our food insecure neighbors, including the Richmond Neighborhood Center, Richmond YMCA, Golden Gate Senior Center, Self-Help for the Elderly and Russian American Community Services. However, while these nonprofits do outstanding work to provide meals and grocery delivery to those in need, they do not have the resources to meet the demand for the entire community. We are seeing about $40 million annually needed to bridge the loss of state benefits and to feed families citywide.

As the Board of Supervisors’ Budget Committee chair, I am committed to fighting for food security during this budget process, and to make sure our seniors and families and most vulnerable are sheltered and fed. By the time this is published, I hope there is a resolution to continue SF-Marin’s Food Bank service to residents on the west side.

This article was published in the Richmond Review in May 2023.

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