Visit any of the 90 Jacobs Cushman San Diego Food Bank distribution sites in the county and you’lll find people lined up in cars to get a little help during the pandemic in the form of food.
“We were feeding 350,000 people a month before the pandemic and that number has spiked more than 600,000,” said James Floros, the president and CEO of the Jacobs Cushman San Diego Food Bank.
One federal program that, since last fall, has been distributing food across the country in several phases is not distributing in San Diego County right now, however.
The USDA Farmers to Families Food Box Program was put together to help struggling farmers and families during the pandemic, and San Diego County food banks were getting boxes until recently.
“We were getting about five truckloads a week, which was great,” Flores said. “It really helped augment what we were doing.”
After months of distribution, though, a problem arose. NBC 7 learned that different vendors across the country bid to distribute the food boxes in each phase of the program. Under the federal contracts, the vendors are supposed to deliver food as equitably as possible to the states.
However, in Phase 4 of the program, Southern California got almost all of the food boxes available in the state, while Northern California received almost none.
“Now we’re in Phase 5 and the tables have turned,” Floros said. “Northern California food banks are getting the federal boxes, but Southern California food banks are not.”
NBC 7 reached out to the USDA in Washington, D.C., about the distribution issue and was told that they would look into the problem.
Floros said that the Jacobs Cushman San Diego Food Bank gets support from federal, state and local governments, as well as private, and corporate donors, so the nonprofit is able to manage funding challenges like this and still fill the tremendous need, thanks to their generous donors.
And that will help get more dollars to San Diego Food Bank Partners like Paving Great Futures.
“We might have to spend another $2 million by the end of March,” Floros said.
It appears the money in the $50 million USDA Farmer’s to Families Food Box Program, which began in the Trump Administration, is running out, with only about $5 million left in the budget.
That leaves Floros holding tight, waiting to see how the Biden administration will help food banks across the country with the tremendous need he believes will continue for years to come – even after all the COVID-19 vaccinations.
“We’re here to help,” Floros said. “We’re here to weather the storm.”