Is your local food bank getting support from the USDA?
You may want to contribute during this time of shortage.
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- A lack of shipments from the federal government is leaving some Bay Area food banks with empty shelves. And it's happening just as demand for food is especially high.
The empty shelves say it all these days at the Alameda County Community Food Bank. For the first time in a long time the food bank has had to go without deliveries of crucial items like canned vegetables, fruit, rice, beans, and frozen meats. The reason -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture hasn't delivered surplus commodities to Oakland for two months.
"We haven't received a shipment of the USDA items since the end of July so we are experiencing a real significant shortage that our agencies and the clients are feeling," said Michael Altfest with the Alameda County Food Bank.
Normally the Alameda County Food Bank would have about one million pounds of USDA food on the shelves, now they're down to about half of that.
It's the same story at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano, which also relies heavily on the USDA deliveries. It's not clear if the food's being diverted or is just not available due to the drought in the Midwest. The USDA has yet to give us those answers.
But the reality is the shortage is coming just as demand for food in both Contra Costa and Alameda counties remains extremely high, "More families find themselves turning to the Food Bank these days and we are a lifeline to them," said Suzan Bateson with the Alameda County Food Bank. "So, need in Alameda County is growing. We are serving 1 in 6 Alameda county residents, the majority of which are children."
To try to offset the shortage, both East Bay food banks are appealing to the public, asking for them to organize their own food drives and make monetary donations, "We can turn every dollar that is donated into four dollars worth of food that we can distribute," Altfest said. "Or come down here, volunteer, help out, lend your voice, call your legislature. There's a lot that can be done to help our neighbors in need."
It's unclear when the USDA shipments will resume.
WSIL NEWS -- Illinois food pantries will not get any shipments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture this month. It's just the latest in a series of USDA food cutbacks. Now local food banks are now scrambling to find enough donations to feed those in need.
"At first I said, well that can't be us. This must be somewhere else," exclaims J.R. Russell, the Marion Ministerial Alliance Director.
He got quite the shock when he read that Illinois Food Banks would have to go without help from the USDA this month. The food bank relies on the federal food program for its meat supply, to help feed nearly 400 families in the Marion area. Russell says the bank will have to spend more on buying meat, diverting money from other Ministerial Alliance programs like rent and utilities assistance.
"We've been raising the flag and waving the flag and screaming and hollering for some time now that the demand is up and supplies are down," says Russell.
In Benton, the situation is even worse. More than 700 families look for assistance at its Ministerial Alliance, which relies on the St. Louis food bank for much of its food supply.
"We depended on them greatly for a monthly truck, about 15 thousand pounds. We've not received one for two months, now we're not receiving one for another month, the food is just not available," explains Benton-West City Ministerial Alliance Director Vicki Seagle.
At this time of year, the Ministerial Alliance's warehouse is typically packed with food, coming up at least shoulder height. Now it's mainly seeing empty boxes. Seagle is relying on the community for help. Wal-Mart brings in fresh produce twice a week, but even those shipments are getting smaller. Seagle says she hasn't seen her shelves this empty since the drought of 1988.
"The drought affected us greatly because we were not able to get the fresh products that we need. People started holding back fundings because they just didn't have it, food prices started rising. Same thing again now in 2012."
She says if they don't get help soon, she fears many families will go hungry over the holiday season.
Seagle says she sees about 15 to 20 new families every month and expects to see more now that the BRP Boat Factory has shut down in Benton. You can help by providing food or donating money to your local food pantry.