At Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services (SFBFS), we are witnessing firsthand how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected our most vulnerable populations across Sacramento. Within one month of the virus outbreak, emergency food distribution in Sacramento County increased by 40%. Now, five months later, nearly 300,000 individuals per month are relying on SFBFS for food—a 100% increase over 2019. The financial fallout from the pandemic triggered a hunger crisis; the effects of which are widespread and threaten the long-term health and well-being of households across Sacramento. At a time of isolation, disconnect, fear and vast uncertainty, thousands of households are relying on SFBFS for food and hope. More people are in the food line than ever, including many who have never needed to use food bank programs before.
With so many people struggling from the disruption of the virus and related shutdown, the incredible support from the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) has and will continue to play a key part in our ability to support families and individuals facing food insecurity. Thanks to payroll contributions, we have monthly funds that we can rely on to support our most vulnerable communities in Sacramento.
The numbers are staggering, as are the stories of people facing hunger. 73-year-old Darla survives on Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The majority of her incredibly fixed budget goes toward out of pocket medication, rent and bills. There’s very little left for food, let alone the fresh fruits and vegetables Darla desperately needs in order to keep her pre-existing condition at bay. She hadn’t been able to go grocery shopping in person due to the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Luckily, a friend gave Darla information about SFBFS’ Mega Drive-Through & Walk-Up Distributions. She attended and received both a trunk’s worth of food and a CalFresh flyer. Part of our mission to increase food access significantly involves our Calfresh program. CalFresh is the name of California’s federal Food Stamp Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This program helps qualified applicants stretch their food budget by adding additional healthy and nutritious food choices. Through our Calfresh Program, we want to ensure that qualifying families and individuals facing hunger during this pandemic receive these benefits.
Darla called SFBFS’ CalFresh Outreach team in early March 2020 to apply and they assisted her over the phone. A few weeks later, she received confirmation from the Department of Human Assistance (DHA) that she’d be given a phone interview within the next few weeks. However, when her interview slot came and went with no follow up, Darla began to worry. Expressing her frustration, one of SFBFS’ staff members helped coordinate a three-way conference call between their team, Darla and DHA. Darla was quickly approved for benefits. “Through CalFresh and SFBFS’ food distributions, I have been able to stock my shelves and enjoy fresh salads and fruits, for which I am thankful,” shares Darla. “Hunger is difficult. It’s painful. I make sure to never waste anything.”
Darla’s story mirrors the plight of countless seniors, families, and individuals in Sacramento County. As our community recovers from the long-term effects of COVID-19, we know this demand will continue, and we must plan for this drastic increase in output moving forward. Organizational sustainability is paramount. With our combined efforts, we are committed to assuring people are fed during crises and beyond. We cannot provide vital services without the generosity of our federal employees. Thank you for being that light for people like Darla navigating through some of life’s darker moments.