As the Bay Area recovered from the Great Recession, household incomes increased, but so did poverty rates and the cost of housing, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
In Santa Clara County, where the tech boom produced tens of thousands of new jobs, median household income rose 9.7%. However, the poverty rate in Santa Clara jumped from 8.6% to 9.9%, while the median gross rent went up to 20 percent.
Silicon Valley is one of the wealthiest places in the nation, but it is the tale of two valleys. This country - with a GDP of $16.8 trillion - has the developed world's second highest rate of child poverty. In the Bay Area 1 in 4 children lives below the poverty line. In our region apartment rents average more than $2,300 per month. It takes an annual income of more than $82,000 for a family to pay their bills and put food on the table. The majority of the guests we serve earn less than $20,000 per year. Therefore, many of them have no other choice but to work multiple jobs or share homes with multiple familes. Few have the time or resources to prepare food, let alone acquire ingredients. The little food they may have may be eaten by another family.
Santa Clara University’s Santa Clara County Hunger Index reports that the community’s unmet need for food assistance has been skyrocketing. Using data from US Departments of Commerce and Agriculture, UCLA, and other Santa Clara County partners, The 2013 Hunger Index estimated 814 million meals were required for all low-income households in 2013. Dr. Starbird found that these families were able to afford enough food to provide 417 million meals, or a little more than half their daily needs. Food-assistance programs provided 221 million meals, leaving 176 million "missing" meals.
Like many regions across the nation, Santa Clara County has “food deserts,” low-income neighborhoods without grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables at affordable prices, and a lack of adequate public transportation. This means that the local population tends to buy higher calorie, cheaper food, which is lower in nutritional value. The Hunger Study published by Second Harvest Food Bank and Santa Clara University’s Leavy School of Business states that hunger affects 44% of the children and 12% of the seniors in Santa Clara County.