Maria’s two sons, ages 1 and 3, sat patiently in the back of her SUV while she lifted her grocery bags from a collapsible wagon and set them in the family car. Solidly middle class, she never thought she and her family of four would need food assistance. But then her husband lost his towing business and soon after, she was unexpectedly laid off.

“Childcare is pretty pricey so it’s tough for me to get back into the workforce, and financially it’s been a huge burden on us,” Maria said, as tears filled her eyes. “The help with groceries definitely gives us a break and, you know, we have more money for bills…”.

 One job loss. Two job losses. An illness. Inflation. This is how food insecurity happens — how it’s happening — in San Diego County.

Fortunately for Maria and the many thousands of other residents who find themselves without enough to eat, the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank provides hunger relief and other resource programs to give families access to nutritious food during difficult times.

North County Food Bank

Serving the county since 1977, the San Diego Food Bank and its North County Food Bank chapter partner with 544 nonprofit organizations to provide free and nutritious foods to anyone in need.

Thanks in large part to donations from the public — that’s you! — the San Diego Food Bank is the single greatest year-round food resource for San Diegans struggling to put meals on the table. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news is that, aside from the peak of the pandemic, the demand for the Food Bank’s services is greater than it’s ever been. To make matters worse, the need is growing, holidays are around the corner, and food drive donations are lower than they have been in the past going into the holiday season.

North County: This empty space is usually filled with pallets of food by this time of year.

“I’ve been here about six years and I’ve never seen it like this,” said North County warehouse manager Scott Alnutt as he gestured to the vacuous space before him. “Usually, by this time of the year, this entire space has pallets of food stacked up. And right now, it’s just empty.”

Mira Mar: Your donations can help fill this warehouse.
Half-full bins of canned food.

Both homelessness and food insecurity have exploded in the U.S. and San Diego County is no exception. According to the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, nearly 1,200 residents became homeless for the first time this past September.

Yet homeless folks are a small percentage of those using the Food Bank. The majority of people needing help are people like Maria.

Food insecurity tends to be an invisible problem for the working poor (who often have multiple jobs), seniors living on a fixed income, and veterans and military personnel and their families.

“We’re currently providing food assistance to 400,000 people every month,” said Stephanie Bunce, the organization’s communications and marketing manager. “We’re not at the level we were during the peak of pandemic when it immediately went up to 600,000, but we’re definitely higher than pre-Covid levels, and we don’t anticipate the numbers are going back down anytime soon.”

Client Choice Food Pantry in North County offers clients personal choice and dignity. It offers lots of fresh produce and prevents food waste by letting people choose what they need.

Greater need, fewer donations…inflation is impacting all San Diegans. Yet for those in a position to give, the San Diego Food Bank makes it as easy as possible.

“We always encourage people to give year-round, whether that’s giving time or money,” Stephanie said, “and for every dollar donated, we provide two meals to a San Diegan in need.”

Make a donation today and learn about other ways you can make a difference

There are lots of ways to help that don’t take a lot of time:

Volunteer Dan Sargeant. Dan retired at the beginning of the pandemic and needed something to do. He’s now at the Food Bank’s Vista warehouse four times a week and was Volunteer of the Year in 2021 for the North County Food Bank.

Together, we’re fighting hunger and feeding hope.

Fighting hunger is a collective act and your donations this holiday season make a huge difference in the lives of thousands of people. They’re critical to the Food Bank and will help ensure that no struggling families go without food.

Maria buckled her boys into their car seats and wiped the tears from her eyes.

“We’re coming through our struggle,” she said, “and I’m really thankful the community is doing this for people who are in need.”