San Diego Food Bank Kicks Off Holiday Drive

The San Diego Food Bank kicked off its fall and winter holiday food drive with a goal that is double that of last year, 10News reported.

Food bank officials said demand has grown to where it projected the program will need 1 million pounds of food to get through the winter.

The program is not just for the homeless, as the recession has hit many San Diegans hard. Many who donated to the food drive last year now find themselves in need.

Food Bank President Steve Cushman said, "Last year, we were feeding 200,000 people a month. This year, 304,000 people a month. That's how serious the problem is."

Some state employees now find themselves in that situation, especially those being furloughed three days a month -- a 15 percent pay cut. That makes it difficult for a single mom with two college-aged kids at home.

"I've stood in line for free food for myself and was embarrassed to tell people I was a state employee standing in that line. I shouldn't have to do that," said Cora Watson, an office technician at Health Care Services.

San Diego Food Bank requests have jumped significantly, according to Chairman Mitch Mitchell. He compared first quarter statistics from 2008 to 2009.

Mitchell said Imperial Beach was a 202 percent increase in demand. Lemon Grove was 144 percent. Vista was an 86 percent increase, and San Diego was 40 percent.

He stressed, "This is the most important food drive we will ever face. During an economic crisis that has never been seen since the Great Depression, more people are looking for us to help."

More people are pitching in, food bank officials said. College students have been holding rallies and other events to fill barrels, and San Diego State University won a competition, collecting over three tons of food. SDSU Senior Jenn Bjorklund was the team leader and she told 10News, "You just hear about all these people going without food. I can't get my fingers around it."

All the donations are deeply appreciated by the food bank and those in need. State employee Danica Garcia saw her pay reduced 14 percent when furloughs were instituted. She said, "They take it into consideration that you are a single mom, have children you need to take care of, and I think it's great"

Cash donations are welcome and there are collection barrels throughout the community, including at every Vons and Wells Fargo location.

For more information on the San Diego Food Bank, visit sandiegofoodbank.org.