Community Food Bank of San Benito County started in 1989 to serve 35 families in our county. Twenty-four years later, the organization has grown into an integral safety net, feeding more than 5,000 local residents or 1,750 bags of food each month and providing services such a backpack program for local children, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) outreach, and anti-poverty advocacy.
"It's any time, anybody," said Executive Director MaryAnne Hughes, the person behind the food bank's growth. "We mostly serve children, most of our clients are children. Like the State of California, we're in a perfect storm. Now it's a lot of new people and a lot of people who have not had to ask before," Hughes said. San Benito County's unemployment rate is a bit above the national average. At 9.8 %, unemployment affects many local households. For many residents, they do have work, but it is part-time and/ or low-paying which makes it hard to make ends meet.
Hughes has been instrumental in bringing federal dollars to our county to build a warehouse and increase the amount of food and services the organization is able to provide. "We are trying to be service-oriented, and trying to get the word out to our community about how much need there really is out there. We know what causes hunger, it's called poverty," Hughes added.
For many families, the food bank provides crucial back-up at the end of the month when funds have run out and they need a little help. Most recipients see the food bank as temporary assistance during a difficult time and give back by way of volunteering their time, making up about 40% of the total labor and and about 10% of costs.
"We do not ask that people in need trade hours for food–many are working, disabled or otherwise unable to assist," according to the food bank website."But when they can, it boosts their self-esteem and provides the opportunity to interact with others, learn and keep active. And, it helps us complete our mission.We fight hunger and malnutrition in many other ways, including community education and Cal Fresh (Food Stamp) Outreach."
This holiday season, cash donations are especially appreciated. To donate to local hungry families, you may visit the Community Food Bank website.