San Leandro food program to double distributions


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With the threat of deep cuts proposed to the federal food stamp program, San Leandro and the Alameda County Food Bank are expanding a pilot program that provides food to hungry residents at schools, libraries and shelters.

Food For San Leandro Families, a partnership between the city and the food bank, announced this week that it will double the amount of food it distributes, working with local nonprofits to hand out reusable grocery bags of fresh, healthy food in locations where San Leandro residents already receive social services rather than having them go to traditional food bank locations.

“A lot of these families are working two jobs,” says San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter. “Their time is of the essence. So to reach people where they live and go as opposed to having them come to us is really important.”

Food For San Leandro, a pilot program that began in the summer of 2019, has handed out 10.5 tons of food since it started. With new support from the Alameda County Food Bank, the program plans to double its reach this year.

Groups involved in the effort say the additional help is needed as San Leandro families struggle with food insecurity, rising levels of poverty and homelessness, and the threat of significant cuts to the country’s largest food assistance program, known as CalFresh in California. The proposed cuts come after changes to the program’s work requirement rules that could affect about 9,500 adults in Alameda County — roughly 10% of food stamp recipients, according to estimates from the county food bank.

About one in five people in Alameda County are food insecure or at risk of hunger, a recent report by the Alameda County Food Bank found, with high living and housing costs putting a strain on many working families. In San Leandro, according to the food bank, the percentage of people living with food insecurity or risk of food insecurity is 23 % — slightly higher than the county average. Nearly 10 % of the population lives in poverty and the median household income is $70,723.

“We are regularly out at our agencies or mobile pantry distributions and almost without fail, the people we are talking to are working households.” says Michael Altfest, the food bank’s director of community engagement and marketing.“People are able to keep a roof over their head, put gas in the car, and keep the lights on, but where they start to cut or make adjustments is healthy meals.”

Local officials hope to reach people who may decide to cut back on food as they struggle with financial and housing pressures.

“It’s our job to protect people who need to be protected,” says Russo Cutter. “In San Leandro, we have a saying that it’s a city where kindness matters. So it’s our job to look at all of our residents and find out how we can help.”

This article is part of The California Divide, a collaboration among newsrooms examining income inequity and economic survival in California.

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