SAN JOSE, Calif. - Six months ago, life took a downturn for San Jose resident Tulei Logotaeao. She recounted losing her job as food prices surged, leading her to rely on Lord’s Pantry in East San Jose for most of her groceries each month.
"Life happens. We all need help," she said as she put produce items into her cart Friday afternoon.
Experts said Logotaeao's assessment is spot-on, noting an increase in demand for services at many Bay Area food banks and pantries from north to south.
"About a year ago, we were doing somewhere between 200-300 food boxes. We’re now up to 300-500 food boxes a day," said Maj. Daniel Freeman of the Salvation Army of Silicon Valley.
Stephanie Schaefer of Second Harvest Silicon Valley added, "We thought after the pandemic, that it would drop back down. But we found that it hasn’t."
Tanis Crosby of the San Francisco Marin Food Bank said that the COVID pandemic marked a transition from balancing needs to now falling behind slowly.
"Families are experiencing pressure on all sides. Increased inflation, just at the time all those pandemic-era supports are going away. And food banks aren’t immune to those pressures," she said.
Crosby mentioned an increase in customers from 32,000 a week to 50,000.
For some agencies, the strain has led to food shortages, requiring reliance on donations from other food banks and pantries to continue serving people.
Mary DeHart, director of Lord’s Pantry, said, "A lot of the food pantries here in the area, we connect and share with each other or help each other out."
As the holiday season approached its climax, those addressing increasing needs emphasized that the larger community could make a difference through volunteering and donations.
"Our resources are always finite. And especially when we’re trying to get more food out, we have to be careful with our resources. And so we do have to make tough choices to make sure we’re getting the most bang for our buck," said Schaefer.
Logotaeoa added, "The folks out here at the churches that donate, they help a lot."
Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on X (formerly Twitter), @JesseKTVU and on Instagram, @jessegontv.