The issue: The number of locals going hungry shocked everyone
44,400. Fourty-four thousand, four hundred. That’s the number of people who get assistance every year from the Food Bank of Yolo County, according to Hunger in America 2014, a comprehensive study of hunger in the United States.
LOCAL ACTIVISTS and agencies have sounded the alarm for years, noting the irony of thousands going hungry in this massively productive agricultural region, but the scale of the problem took everybody by surprise.
“It demonstrates a greater problem than I have previously understood,” said Yolo County Supervisor Don Saylor, whose Soup’s On event has benefited several nutrition-based charities over the years.
Data for the survey is collected by food banks across the country every four years. The hard numbers quantify a problem that those on the front lines see every day.
And as the problem grows, the agencies that deal with it are feeling the strain, too.
“Although agencies and their programs employ creative strategies to manage their clients’ needs,” the report said, “some programs perceive an increasing need for services in their service areas and some report struggling to accommodate client demand.”
Among the agencies that partner with the Yolo Food Bank, 27 percent reported having somewhat less or a lot less food than needed to meet clients’ needs, according to the survey.
Local partners include The Pantry (serving students on the UC Davis campus), Davis Community Meals, the Yolo Elderly Nutrition Program/Meals on Wheels, the Progress Ranch group home for troubled boys, the Short-Term Emergency Aid Committee, the Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Center, and numerous faith-based organizations and churches.
BEYOND THE RAW numbers, the report also quantifies the day-to-day decisions that people on the edge must make.
The survey found that 30 percent of people served by local agencies have no members with health insurance, 21 percent have faced foreclosure or eviction in the past five years, and 39 percent currently receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, what we used to call food stamps.
Fifty-seven percent of clients have to choose between paying for food or paying for medicine or medical care, and more than 30 percent have to choose between paying for food or utilities.
Can Yolo County come together to alleviate this problem? We think so. We have a long history of helping out those less fortunate, and we’re confident our community will come together again.
Saylor is bullish. “I see people all across the county rising to address this issue,” he told The Enterprise. “We are all a part of the fabric of this community and we must see this report as a renewed call to action.”