Sonoma County food pantry sees 25% increase in need from one year ago

Food pantries in Sonoma County are seeing an alarming increase in the number of people who need help putting food on their tables.

Wildfires, PG&E power outs and a high cost of living that keeps getting higher are listed as key reasons.

At F.I.S.H., (Friends in Service Here), the oldest and largest food pantry in Sonoma County, one Air Force veteran came for groceries for his wife and their two-year-old daughter.

"Just going through a difficult time," said Joshua Alvarez.

 Alvarez said he works full time. but the job doesn't pay enough to afford the county's ever-climbing high cost of living.

“You have to have a big job lined up. You can't be making minimum wage," he said.

Such stories are becoming increasingly common here at F.I.S.H. 

"We see a steady influx of people who need help daily," pantry manager Kaarin Lee said. 

The pantry provides food for 6,000 people a month. That's 25% more than this time a year ago and it's the largest one-year increase they've ever seen here.

 One reason are the wildfires from the past two years that displaced thousands of people. Perhaps the biggest reason for the increase, according to some, are those still recovering from PG&E blackouts during this past fire season.

"People lose their power. Then they lose their food. A lot of people can't afford to go to the grocery store and replenish their food. So we come in real handy," said Lee.

The Redwood Empire Food Bank in Santa Rosa supplies groceries directly and indirectly to more than 90,000 people in Sonoma County.

Those in charge say a survey from two years ago showed at least one in six people in the county are missing meals or going hungry. And that number does not appear to be going down.

"We could double the amount we do. And we still wouldn't be meeting the need," said food bank executive Sara Olsher.