Update, Dec. 23, 2014: With just two days to go until Christmas, local food banks are still looking for donations.
Kathy Jackson, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, says that the organization is short of its end-of-year goals by $6 million in monetary donations, 25 percent in dry food donations and 2,015 turkeys.
"That is a staggering amount, but it's doable," Jackson said. "It's still really hard days for the people we support."
Food banks raise most of their annual funds between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31.
"The holidays are the time that people are thinking about family and family dinners," she said. "This is a time our message seems to particularly resonate."
The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank closed more of its donation gap in the last month, but it is still short about $400,000 compared with last year, according to Blain Johnson, media relations manager at the food bank.
Original post, Nov. 26, 2014: The leaders of two major Bay Area food banks say that the Bay Area's economic boom may actually be playing a role in making it harder for some of the people they serve to put holiday meals on the table.
"The cost of living is going up, and that's really affecting the people we serve," said Tami Cárdenas, Second Harvest Food Bank's vice president of development and marketing. "Considering that the economy has improved so much, we hoped the need would not be as chronic and as high."
Second Harvest Food Bank serves about 248,000 people a month in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, almost 40 percent of them children, according to Cárdenas. The holidays are an especially hard time for low-income families who rely on subsidized meal programs at schools for their children.
Cárdenas says the Second Harvest Food Bank has actually seen a slight decline in the number of people it's serving -- because many people are simply moving out of the area.
Meanwhile, the SF-Marin Food Bank is serving more people. The organization expects to provide about 33,000 San Francisco and Marin households with meals during Thanksgiving week this year.
"The general cost of living in San Francisco and Marin are really making people's budgets crash," said Paul Ash, director of the SF-Marin Food Bank. "It's really hard to stretch their income across the kinds of cost we see, especially in terms of rent increases."
Federal cuts to food stamps this year have also hurt. Thanksgiving’s date at the end of the month also makes it harder for people to afford a holiday meal. People often receive support at the beginning of the month and have to make that stretch out longer.
"We're coming off a period of seven years of dramatic changes. Some of them have been roller coasters down, and a slow move back up," Ash said. "People are dealing with an economy where they can't afford to stay in the housing they're in. Many families are doubling up, with really cramped conditions. These are the kinds of changes that are insidious, the growing cost of basic needs."
Low Holiday Donations
Both food banks are short on food and monetary donations. On Wednesday, Second Harvest Food Bank was still short 3,500 turkeys and the SF-Marin Food Bank was short 10,000 pounds of food. Both food banks work directly with those in need and with local agencies and community groups to distribute the food.
The SF-Marin Food Bank feeds on average 144,000 people and works with 240 food pantries and 450 agencies. Second Harvest Food Bank works with 770 food distribution sites and serves one out of 10 residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.
Holiday fundraising shortages can impact the food banks year-round though. The SF-Marin Food Bank raises 60 percent of its funds during the holidays; Second Harvest Food Bank raises half of its money during the same period.
Monetary donations can go far, Cárdenas says. A dollar in donations can help provide two meals, she says. If you're going to donate food, protein items are the best, says Ash. That's because both food banks deliver fresh produce and often have to purchase items like tuna and peanut butter.
Many food banks are still accepting donations for the holidays:
- San Francisco and Marin Food Bank: 900 Pennsylvania Ave., San Francisco. Call (415) 282-1907 for hours.
- Alameda County Food Bank: 7900 Edgewater Drive, Oakland. Call (510) 635-3663 for hours.
- St. Anthony's Dining Room: 150 Golden Gate Ave., San Francisco. Call (415) 241-2600 for hours.
- Glide Memorial United Methodist Church, 330 Ellis St., San Francisco. Call (415) 674-6000 for hours.
- Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, 4010 Nelson Ave., Concord. Call (925) 676-7543 for hours.
- Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties: Call (866) 234-3663 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for locations and hours.
Sean McGrier contributed to this report.