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Hunger and Homelessness in San Francisco

Hunger Greater than Food Bank Supply - Homeless Numbers Steady

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Although San Francisco food banks and food pantries are giving out more groceries, still nearly one-third of those asking for food assistance in 2010 were turned away, according to a recent U.S. Conference of Mayors report. The number of San Francisco people asking for food assistance shot up by 40 percent last year over 2009.

About 42 million pounds of food was given out in 2010 in San Francisco--16 percent more than in 2009, the study says. Compared to the 40 percent surge in food requests in San Francisco, for all 27 cities covered in the national survey, requests for food increased by one-fourth on average.

Store chains and other food suppliers donated about 70 percent of the food that was doled out in San Francisco.

In the mayors’ study, San Francisco’s homeless situation appears slightly rosier: The numbers of homeless individuals and homeless families were reported to be stable over the year, and emergency shelters accommodated all homeless people who came to their doors.

To tackle San Francisco’s hunger, affordable housing, higher food stamp allotments and changes in federal assistance levels to reflect the city's high living costs are needed, San Francisco officials say.

The study covers 27 cities across the country that belong to the U.S. Conference of Mayors Task Force on Hunger and Homelessness. They include Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Portland, Seattle and Sacramento. (One notable non-member is New York City). Our own Gavin Newsom co-chairs the task force with the mayor of Asheville, NC.

Across all of the cities, the number of requests for food rose an average of 24 percent. Among the people asking for emergency food supplies, 56 percent were in families, 30 percent were employed, nearly 20 percent were elderly, and 17 percent were homeless. (One person could be included in more than one category).

Municipal officials most often cited unemployment, high housing costs, and low wages and poverty as the main causes of hunger in their cities.

San Francisco Food Bank distributed the bulk of the food assistance in the city, 28 million pounds’ worth. It opened 14 new food pantries over the past year, such as in schools, day care centers, public housing projects and community services centers. The food bank relies on volunteers, and our Volunteer and Contribute in San Francisco guide has information about how to become one of them.

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