Bay Area food banks are seeing an unprecedented need

At the Alameda County Food Bank cars line-up for free groceries in numbers no one has ever seen before. The number of people in need now is staggering.

All of the Bay Area food banks combined are feeding about a million people a month now. That's the equivalent of the entire population of San Jose. And it is double the number of people these same food banks were serving just a few months ago, before the pandemic hit.

"It's unprecedented. We've been in business 35 years. We've never seen anything like this. The need skyrocketed overnight," said Michael Altfest, spokesman for the Alameda County Food Bank.

It especially skyrocketed in the South Bay where the Second Harvest Food Bank Silicon Valley is now serving half a million people a month. Many are people who never needed any help before.

"They're working multiple jobs. They're commuting long hours to work those jobs. They're just barely making ends meet. Those are the folks who weren't able to go to work and don't have substantial savings to carry them through months of being off work," said Cat Cvengros of the Second Harvest Food Bank Silicon Valley.

The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank has seen its monthly numbers double to a quarter of a million people.

"Its been overwhelming the need. We've had to hire a lot more people. We've had to turn our product faster," said Michael Wirkkala of the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.

Prior to the pandemic the food banks sounded warnings that because the cost of Bay Area housing is so high, it wouldn't take much to send many people into crisis. That is exactly what happened.

"Vulnerable seniors low income workers can not afford lost hours let alone lost jobs," said Altfest.

Fortunately, supply chains for food remain strong. But the food banks need to push their fundraising.

"We are not going to see this buttoned up in the next few months. That level of need is not just going to go away," said Cvengros.