Alameda County food bank sees staggering need ahead of the holidays

At the Alameda County Community Food Bank, the number of people in need is staggering.

"We are sending out unprecedented, record numbers of meals for food every day," says Michael Altfest, Alameda County Community Food Bank spokesman.

In the days before COVID, one in five Alameda County residents had trouble putting food on the table. Now it is up to one in four.

"Before the pandemic, we distributed about 28 million meals. This year we are going to do 48 million. And heading into the holidays we know these coming months are going to be among the busiest we have experienced as an organization in 36, 37 years," said Altfest.

But as the need grows, so have food prices.

The food bank pays four times what it paid for food pre-pandemic.

At the Mission Food Hub in San Francisco, which distributes food to 7,000 families, higher costs are only part of the problem.

With Thanksgiving less than four weeks away, smaller, grassroots organizations are running into shortages that larger food banks are not facing.

"We are having to shop around to different suppliers to get enough turkeys. A lot of the items like stuffing, there's a shortage of that. So we are having to go to different suppliers," says Roberto Hernandez, founder of the Mission Food Hub.

Hernandez says the food shortages are in part due to farm labor shortages. And the high food prices are partially due to the high cost of gasoline for truckers to bring the food in.

At St. Anthony's in San Francisco's Tenderloin, the concern is not supply shortages, but whether donations will keep pace with the rising costs and whether people will have donor fatigue.

Regardless, St. Anthony's says it will be serving thousands of Thanksgiving meals, but outdoors because of COVID.

"We have tents, we have tables and chairs. We will try to make it as cozy as possible in that setting," says St. Anthony's CEO Nils Behnke.

For more information on how to donate to Alameda County Community Food Bank click here

For information on St. Anthony's in San Francisco, click here