The pandemic pushed local food banks to the brim as they dealt with record numbers of requests. COVID-19 has also stretched the Bay Area's growing food access crisis, leaving a large amount of the region's population more than a half-mile away from the nearest grocery store.
Food deserts — areas that have below-average access to food, which can cause residents of those regions to travel miles to find the nearest grocery outlet — are on the rise. Pharmacy deserts, too, are increasing month after month; the recent shuttering of five San Francisco Walgreens stores has only worsened that problem in the city.
It's the weekend before Thanksgiving, and we'd like to share our thanks to our supporters and volunteers for helping us provide food to the community. If you're able, please sign up for a shift today to help us deliver groceries to our neighbors. https://t.co/ganwYLUTcU pic.twitter.com/knHt1IVeOw— San Francisco-Marin Food Bank (@SFMFoodBank) November 20, 2021
But a recent analysis conducted by ABC7 has shed a light on just how severe (and how dangerous) the crisis of food access has gotten in the Bay Area.
According to the data collected by the news outlet, at least 889 neighborhoods in the Bay Area are considered to have "low food access." Of those urban areas, 600 are found in the San Francisco metro area, while another 289 food deserts exist around San Jose; a quick glance at the map also reveals nearly all the neighborhoods that make up the cities of Pittsburg and Antioch exist within food deserts.
It's estimated that over one million Californians now live within food deserts. Compounding the issue further: 45% of all residents in the state who live in food deserts are considered low-income individuals, per a report by California FreshWorks. Locally, ABC7's data analysis found some 250 low-income neighborhoods in the Bay Area also have low food access — in some cases making up over 20% of a county's neighborhoods, as is the case with Santa Clara County.
Inflation of the U.S dollar, as well, is to also blame for worsening food scarcity and affordability across the country, including here in the Bay Area.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021 has seen the national averages for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increase 10.5%. As measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the annual rate of inflation from October 2020 to October 2021 was 6.2% — three times the annual average. It's little wonder why the maximum monthly CalFresh food stamp allotment of $194 for a single-person household doesn’t go all too far these days.
And when you consider that the average low-income household spends some 40% of their gross income on food, it's a trend that can only lead to increased rates of Bay Area hunger until some resolution is found.
To find other food access sites provided by the SF-Marin Food Bank, as well as their schedules of operation, visit sfmfoodbank.org/find-food; to learn about how you can either donate acceptable food or volunteer your time, visit here and here, respectively.
Top Photo: Courtesy of Twitter via @SFMFoodBank