In Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, 720,000 people are food insecure. The combined population of these two counties amounts to 2.7 million. If you were fortunate enough to have had breakfast this morning, then you probably have the brain power work out that more than one-quarter of the residents in these two "well-off" Bay Area counties are food insecure. They don't get enough to eat.
The USDA formally defines food insecurity as "the state of being without reliable access to affordable, nutritious food because of lack of money and other resources." Worldwide, food insecurity is a major cause of mortalilty and morbidity. While the most seriously affected in the Bay Area include seniors, veterans, and children, food insecurity also affects wage earners, the very people on whom those groups rely.
Seniors, who paid taxes all their working lives, are subsisting on dried beans and angel hair pasta; veterans, who put their lives on the line for the rest of us, are struggling to put food on the table as they adjust to civilian life, in some cases, life without limbs. Meanwhile, the secrets to some of the planet's biggest health, social, economic, and environmental problems lie locked inside the undernourished minds of children who are going to school hungry.
By putting your generosity to work with Loaves and Fishes' resources, together you can unlock those solutions, give veterans the foundation for a productive civilian life and secure a happy, active retirement for Silicon Valley seniors.
The cycle of food insecurity & chronic disease
In an article entitled, "Food Insecurity and Health: A Conceptual Framework," Sheri Weiser of the University of California at San Francisco and her colleagues describe food insecurity in terms of the following pathways: nutritional, behavioral, mental health, and possible immune pathways. They speak of pathways linking food insecurity with diabetes and cardioascular risk, to HIV acquisition and disease progression, and immunological pathways relating to HIV and cardiovascular disease.
The bottom line? Food insecurity contributes to poor health and chronic disease, which in turn reduces employability while also increasing healthcare expenditure. Inevitably, paying for healthcare leaves less of the family budget to buy food. The cycle feeds itself.
Case Study: Sean Kayode
Sean Kayode's story provides a stunning example of the self-sustaining cycle of food insecurity and homelessness. Sean had been living in his car in San Francisco for about two years. Sean's car not only provided him with a 'roof over his head', it was also his source of income since he used it to deliver food through Uber Eats. This highly efficient, although blatently undesirable, state of affairs ended abruptly at 3 am on March 5, 2018, when the city impounded his black 2005 Mercedes Benz. He had too many overdue parking tickets. Kayode had worked his way out of homelessness and bought a car. The City of San Francisco, which needed to maintain the credibility of its parking restrictions, took away his home and his livelihood. Sean was homeless and jobless once again.
Thanks to the help of Jude Pond of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights, who filed a lawsuit on Sean's behalf, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White ordered that the car be returned. Sean was 'lucky.' Tens of thousands of Californians live in their cars. When losing their cars to impoundment leads to the loss of their homes and workplaces, there's no place left to go but the streets.
The Pathway from Food Insecurity to Food Security
While this sounds pretty dismal for people residing in the Bay Area, Anne Santos, Community Relations Coordinator at Loaves and Fishes San Jose, has devised a pathway from food insecurity to food security. This is where you and Loaves and Fishes join forces to help this unacceptably large chunk of the population eat healthily, function productively, and ultimately retire from the cycle of food insecurity and chronic disease.
The diagram lays out the pathway in simple, sequential steps. In reality, there are multiple connections from one or more steps to others along the way. The first 'step' on the pathway is Emergency Food Assistance. Loaves and Fishes provides a monthly grocery bag program of staple foods and a bagged lunch program from its public meal service sites for anyone in need. The second step is Soup Kitchens. In February 1980, L&F started out as a traditional soup kitchen, offering a simple meal of fish and bread to 11 adults and 15 children. It achieves this this by partnering with 30+ nonprofits (Step 9 - Mentor & Promoter) also serving vulnerable populations in Santa Clara and San Mateo County.
In 2014, in order to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the community, the charity centralized its meal preparation into one commercial kitchen and added delivery service to expand its reach and serve more of the hungry. The program works to improve both the immediate and long-term physical health of hungry children, families, seniors, veterans, students and individuals. In FY 2018-2019 L&F expects to serve over 525,000 meals to 320,000 individuals, of whom nearly 100,000 are children (Step 3).
To summarize, in collaboration with more than 30 mentors and partners and with the help of herbs and vegetables donated by Coyote Valley Nursery and high school students who help out on its one-third-acre organic farm, Loaves and Fishes San Jose provides 320,000 people, almost half of Santa Clara and San Mateo counties' food insecure, with healthy, nutrient-dense meals, groceries, and bagged lunches on a regular basis. In the process of helping with the gardening, kids learn about food sustainability and feeding the hungry. Volunteers and staff from SHFB, who assist with the grocery bag program, encourage people to sign up for SNAP.
All of this is made possible because of the generosity of you, Loaves and Fishes' cherished donors. Doesn't it just make you want to give more, so you can keep the pathways to food security moving forward?
Article Credit: Dr. Kimberly Martin, PhD.