Letters to the Editor: Food bank users "us," not "them"

Letters to the Editor: Food bank users "us," not "them"

Letters to the Editor
Alameda Food Bank

Since I became director of the Alameda Food Bank, I have been skeptical when anyone in our organization refers to our clients as “them.” This past year, I have spent many cold mornings at our warehouse on the old base at Alameda Point, giving clients information and food options. When I look at the older singles, or the moms with kids or the older brothers and sisters picking up for their homebound parents, I see our community: The faces of our friends and neighbors, people who live among us whose children go to our schools, whom we run into on the street, whom we see at the physician’s office.

Food insecurity can affect all kinds of different people at different times in their lives for very different reasons. And many of “us” need help, even temporarily, so difficult choices between having enough food and paying the electricity bill or between having enough food and paying for needed medications need not be made.

The quadrennial “Hunger in America” study commissioned by Feeding America, the national network of food banks, was just released. Our partner agency, the Alameda County Community Food Bank, serves one in five Alameda County residents. The Hunger in America study described a food security problem nationally that has worsened:

• Each week nationally, local food banks served 37 million Americans, including 14 million children and nearly 3 million seniors; this is a 27 percent increase over numbers reported in “Hunger in America” in 2006.
• 36 percent of these client households are experiencing food insecurity or hunger, meaning they are sometimes completely out of food.
• Locally, the Alameda Food Bank served 4,136 people in 2007, and 5,071 people in 2013.

With nearly 200 volunteers and collaborating churches, grocery stores, and local service agencies, we are truly Alamedans (and Bay Area residents!) coming together to support those among us who are having a tough time. A bright spot for us in the dismal news of the Hunger in America study, has been the truly remarkable way Alamedans (and other Bay Area residents!) have stepped up to support the Alameda Food Bank again. Our broader community’s response to the Spring Challenge was to contribute more than our goal of $30,000.

We are deeply grateful to every person across in the Island city who wrote us a check or made a credit card pledge. We are especially appreciative of the more than 20 local businesses that contributed to the food bank. Caring and giving on the local level is a wonderful way to help food scarcity problems in our region and in our nation. Our community’s gifts and support continue to sustain and help “us.”

Troy Gilbert, director
Alameda Food Bank