How Food Banks Help Address California’s Biggest Problems

Cindy Houts

How Food Banks Help Address California’s Biggest Problems

If you ask most Californians to name the state’s biggest problems, climate change and homelessness are bound to make the list. Food insecurity probably wouldn’t, but while addressing this issue, the state’s food banks are helping solve higher profile problems in our state.

Take climate change. One of the key contributors is emissions from organic waste dumped into landfills. A new state law is designed to reduce the impact of these emissions by reducing food waste. Among other things, the law now mandates that edible unsold food in markets be redirected to food banks.

Alameda is well ahead of the curve. For 20 years, Alameda Food Bank (AFB) volunteers have jumped into our vans to collect quality excess food from local markets to distribute to our clients. Last fiscal year, we kept over 412,000 pounds of safe, nutritious food from ending up in local landfills.

The number of unsheltered individuals is another big problem. Food banks make a significant contribution by helping people put food on the table without dipping into the rent jar. With the cost of housing rising faster than wages for many working families, having access to free, nutritious food can make the difference between keeping a roof over their heads or living in their car.

AFB saves 2,100 Island families more than $800 on groceries each month. With the average rent in Alameda hovering around $2,500, that lowers the combined cost of food and shelter by more than 25% — a significant amount when you are struggling to make ends meet. And it is a real bargain since we can buy $7 worth of food for every $1 we spend.

Resolving climate change and homelessness will take a major effort at all levels of government. In the meantime, the state’s food banks — and the generous members of the communities that support them — are doing their part to help.

Cindy Houts joined the AFB as Executive Director in June 2015, bringing a decade of nonprofit experience fighting hunger.

Founded in 1977, AFB is a non-profit organization that helps the Alameda community by providing nourishing food to those in need in a compassionate and respectful manner with the support of dedicated volunteers and local partners. Those in need of goods can visit AFB’s Island Community Market at 650 West Ranger Ave. The market is open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from noon to 4 p.m. AFB is seeking donations and volunteers for its AFB’s community market. To donate, volunteer or for more information, visit