Do the hungry deserve a bail out? A food bank leader weighs in.


Suzan Bateson, Executive Director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank, offered this comment  and perspective on  Sue Brockway’s post suggesting that the hungry deserve a bail out, too. We thought it compelling enough to stand on its own as an entry.


We can’t wait for a government bail out for the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, California.

An unprecedented spike in need has us scrambling to hand out food for today and hope for tomorrow by working on policies that we hope will brighten the future. We have an amazing outreach team that helps connect as many families as we can with the federal supplemental nutrition assistance (food stamp) program — that takes time, and these days with layoffs and underemployment, high food prices, and a 40% spike in clients who need food right now — time is our enemy.  We distribute millions of pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year and find a great deal of pride in that. Our operations team works harder than they knew they could to turn product around swiftly. Finance team keeps a close eye on our financials and oversees our administration while development works tirelessly to raise funds, food drive donations and create amazing events (you know you’ve seen us in action). I walk among angels each day with our staff, agency partners, board and donors — who strive to conquer hunger in our community.

We serve tens of thousands of hungry children. Children’s health is affected by improper nutrition — but even more delicate is their emotional state when parents work more than one job but can’t afford adequate nutrition for their family. Illness, depression, isolation and hopelessness can lead to a gang’s allure or academic failure. This is our future, America, how can we ignore our children.

Last week a 92 year old called the food helpline. He had never asked for help in his life. Our helpline operators take calls like these each day. They have more compassion than you can imagine. They take in more than anyone should ever hear.

How can you help? Many who read this won’t be able to make big financial gifts — but America is a wealthy country and has many wealthy citizens. Over the next couple of years it will be essential for Americans to give — at their greatest capacity — to basic needs organizations like food banks. With 36 million Americans affected by hunger it’s clear that we have a crisis that will play out in the future if we don’t provide a safety net today.

Sue, thanks for your work and your challege to speak up. Sometimes the work takes us to the limit, but it’s important that we share a snapshot of Main Street with those who will take our words to heart.


We’re always eager to provide space in this forum for hunger fighters who would offer their perspective.  We’ll gladly link back to your own online space should you do so.


Hunger in the Bay Area – and How You Can Help


Hunger is a serious problem in the Bay Area…
• Nearly 1.2 million people in the Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma and Santa Cruz counties) are living near the poverty line, at risk of going hungry. According to census figures, these people are making less than $26,000 for a family of 3.
• The California Budget Project estimates that a family needs to make more than twice that amount – at least $53,000 – in order to make ends meet in the Bay Area. People who can’t get by often give up food to pay for vital expenses like medicine, or fixed expenses like rent.
• 50% of the people Bay Area food banks serve are children – and many live in working poor families.

The current economy is making things even worse…
• In addition to the region’s high cost of living, food and fuel prices have skyrocketed over the past year. Higher food and energy prices have put many more families into crisis, and they’ve had to turn to Food Banks to get the basics. Seniors on fixed incomes have been severely impacted, too.
• Nationally, eggs have increased 34% and white bread 15%, while milk prices in California have climbed 30% in the past year.  According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, gasoline prices in the Bay Area have gone up 36.4% in the past year.
• On top of dramatically higher food prices, the economic downturn has put even more families at risk of going hungry. All six Bay Area food banks are seeing increased numbers of clients in need, with longer lines at our grocery pantries. People often stand in line for hours to get food.

Government resources have been cut, making private donations crucial…
• Allotments of basic foods like rice, beans, and protein items from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to Bay Area food banks have dropped 50% in the last 5 years – from over 14 million pounds in 2003 to just 7 million in 2008.

How the 6 Bay Area food banks help…

• Every day, Bay Area food banks source, collect, sort, inspect and repackage hundreds of thousands of pounds of food. The food comes from supermarket chains, large manufacturers, wholesalers, produce packers and growers, restaurant suppliers, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and food drives.
• Last year Bay Area Food banks distributed 96 million pounds of food into their communities, this year they are distributing over 102 million pounds of food – up more than 6%.
• This year Bay Area Food banks will distribute enough food for 219,000 meals every day. It goes out to neighborhood grocery pantries, soup kitchens, programs that serve homebound seniors, and more.

Here’s how you can help…
• For every comment this post receives indicating it has been read, Tyson Foods will donate 100 pounds of high-quality protein (up to a total of 200,000 pounds) to the six Bay Area food banks. Help us fill the trucks! Comment here (even one-word comments acceptable. One comment per visitor, please.  NOTE: Since our comments are moderated, it might take a bit to get them up, but we WILL get them up). To prevent spam, the comment form asks for an email address. Tyson will NOT harvest these emails or use them in any way whatsoever.

• Visit the website of your nearest food bank to learn more about how you can donate, volunteer and advocate to help end hunger where you live:
San Francisco Food Bank
Alameda Community Food Bank
Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara & San Mateo Counties
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz & San Benito Counties
Redwood Empire Food Bank
Many thanks to the Bay Area food bloggers who took on the San Francisco Food Bank’s Hunger Challenge. Without the attention they brought to this issue, Tyson’s donation would not have happened.

UPDATE!!!! As of Thursday, Oct. 2, less than one week after we began the effort, we reached our goal of 2000 comments, meaning ALL 200,000 pounds will be delivered to Bay Area Food Banks!  In fact, as of this writing, some of the food has already been delivered.  THANKS FOR ALL OF YOUR EFFORTS!


Since 2000, Tyson Foods has been actively involved in the fight against hunger, contributing more than 53 million pounds of food to hunger and disaster relief.  This site will tell you more about the company’s ongoing efforts. 

This just in: We’ve had quite a few requests from commenters that we send some vegetarian items.  While we’re primarily a  meat protein company, we do make pizza crust.  We’re sending along  a bit of that.