New food pantry opens in Hayward to halt growing problem of hunger

It’s not a grocery store or a market. But it is where some 300 families in Hayward get most of their food now. 

The Hayward Unified School District runs the new food pantry in an effort to combat the growing problem of hunger among children and families.

"It is going to help. I am so glad they are doing this," said Pastora Canul, a mother of two students.

Canul says even though her husband works, it is difficult keeping food on the table.

"Sometimes you have to choose between paying the rent, buying the food and paying bills. Sometimes it is a really hard choice," says Canul.

The school district estimates that about a third of children in Hayward live in poverty and said hungry students have trouble keeping up in school. On this day, parents were picking up mostly canned goods and fresh eggs. Fruits and vegetables will come another day.

"You can go to McDonald’s and order off the dollar menu. Some will be fed that way. But it is not the healthiest way for families to feed their kids. And it isn't conducive to our students learning when they are not getting the diet they need," said Annette Walker, Hayward Unified School District Board President.

The district has teamed up with the Alameda County Community Food Bank to take the unusual step of opening a food pantry three times a month at the district's parent resource center.

A single mother with three school-aged children to feed spoke to the difficulties she faces. "The rent is high. The food is high,” said parent Tami Rossell. “This is a break for me and one thing I don't have to worry about -- something to eat," said parent Tami Rossell.

The food pantry is open to all families in Hayward whether they have school-aged children or not. Those at the food bank say hunger is a growing problem.

"We do see a number of families that will turn to us that may get by in other parts of the country," said Michael Altfest of the Alameda County Community Food Bank. “Here it is a lot harder.”

The food pantry isn't just staying open when school is in session, but year-round, so no student in Hayward should have to go hungry.