Food For People, Humboldt County’s food bank, found that more people are using its services since CalFresh emergency allotments ended.
Executive director Carly Robbins said based on early numbers, the food bank is seeing a 20% to 25% increase across all services. For example, the organization’s June drive-thru food distribution at the Bayshore Mall served more than 700 people. Normally around 450 people would be expected by the organization.
This suggests more people in Humboldt County are experiencing food insecurity, said Robbins.
“Our indicators are how many people are coming in for food assistance and how many new people are seeking services,” she said.
Most of those coming in are citing the end of CalFresh benefits and the increased cost of living as why they are using the food bank.
Pandemic-era emergency allotments of CalFresh, formerly referred to as foodstamps, added extra funds to people’s monthly EBT balances. On average, recipients in California are seeing $163 fewer allocations each month, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. The extra benefits ended in March. People with fixed incomes such as seniors and people with disabilities have been identified by Food for People as feeling the effects of the end of the CalFresh extra dollarss the most, along with families with kids on summer vacation from schools that usually provide meals.
“We were kind of anticipating we would see a bump, and we’ve seen a pretty significant incline in the amount of people coming to distributions,” Robbins said.
She said that when you see a substantial decrease in the amount of available assets, it makes everything harder, with people having to use other money to cover groceries. The re-allocations causes a domino effect: less money for rent, utilities and gas.
In May, 28,488 people in Humboldt County benefited from CalFresh benefits, according to the Department of Social Services data dashboard. Food for People serves over 10% of Humboldt County’s population, said Robbins.
“It’s definitely a strain on the budget of anyone living paycheck to paycheck or below the federal poverty line,” she said.
For the organization, this means a bit of a juggling act. She said the nonprofit is doing the best it can to meet all the needs and to make sure there is enough food to serve all the people coming out for assistance.
Robbins said Food for People is always seeking out new sources of food and that high protein donations such as peanut butter, canned meat and fresh produce from gardens and especially financial contributions help the pantry serve the people of Humboldt County best.Extra volunteers are also helpful.
“There’s a lot more new volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in getting involved,” she said, with a new building in Eureka hosting the organization’s choice pantry. A city sewage malfunction shut down the choice pantry and headquarters in 2020. The organization opened a new location to clients in June.
The Choice Pantry is at 307 W. 14th Street and is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m.). Food For People supplies 21 pantries and three soup kitchens, with a mobile produce pantry that drives across Humboldt County. Donations are accepted at https://www.foodforpeople.org/
Sage Alexander can be reached at 707-441-0504.