SF Food Bank's federal funding slashed

Nick Moone

Volunteers crowd around Virgil Leonard, the project leader at the San Francisco Food Bank last week. Photo by Nick Moone.

More than 30,000 households that receive food from the San Francisco Food Bank maybe affected by a recent drastic cut in funding due to qualifications set by the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program.

For the first time in the program’s 28-year history, the SF Food Bank lost 100 percent of its federal funding due to new criteria set by the EFSP. This means a loss of $592,000 in federal money that helps finance the food bank and other service programs.

The organization now solely relies on food and money donations.

The EFSP National Board, which is chaired by a representative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, set the qualifications for a county or city within a county to receive food bank funding at least two points above the national average of 11.5 percent unemployment and 14.4 percent poverty. San Francisco missed the mark at 9.4 percent unemployment and 11.3 percent poverty.

Peter Duke, 24, business marketing major, volunteered at the food bank last semester and feels uneasy about where the money that is being cut is going.

“They’re cutting funding for the food bank that gives meals to those who need it most,” Duke said. “I’d feel better about the situation if I knew where the money was going. Is it just feeding a black hole of debt?”

Funding for the EFSP was cut 40 percent by Congress in this year’s budget, resulting in $120 million available instead of the $200 million from last year. However, local organizers did not find out about the drastic cuts until after the 2011 fiscal year started in July.

“We had been anticipating on getting the money for the year and giving it to the food pantries,” said Stacy Newman, media manager of the San Francisco Food Bank. “Now we have to cut back on a lot of protein products such as beans, eggs and dairy.”

The San Francisco Food Bank alone will lose out on $161,000, the equivalent of 483,000 meals this year. Last year, San Francisco and Marin counties experienced a 40 percent reduction in national funding.

Marin, with its 8.0 percent unemployment rate and 11.3 percent poverty rate, will also lose $20,000 in federal funding.

According to the food bank, one in five children and one in five adults are at the risk of hunger in San Francisco and Marin. The food bank serves more than 220,000 people each year throughout San Francisco and Marin counties.

In the fiscal year 2010-2011 it fed 225,000 people, and this year it expects a new group of people that will need assistance. The California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids Program, which provides cash assistance to low-income families, had its grants reduced by 8 percent, an average loss of $460 for a family of three per month.

Robert Ramirez, 22, criminal justice major, is a member of Circle K International, a volunteer organization at SF State. Ramirez regularly participates in a program that feeds the homeless people at Grace Cathedral, a partner agency of the San Francisco Food Bank.

“There have been hard times everywhere,” Ramirez said. “Last week when I was volunteering, there was a shortage of food. A couple dozen people were turned away.”

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