San Diego Food Bank’s COVID-19 One Year Anniversary Food Distribution Statistics Illustrate Exponential Demand for Food Assistance

The San Diego Food Bank released statistics on March 15, 2021 charting the impact of the pandemic and the alarming increase in its food distribution programs to key cities throughout San Diego County over the past year.

The Food Bank’s year-over-year distribution statistics compare March 2019 to March 2020 with March 2020 to March 2021. In the period March 2019 to 2020, the Food Bank distributed 37.7 million pounds of food. In the period March 2020 to March 2021, the Food Bank distributed 57.4 million pounds of food, the equivalent of 48 million meals and an increase of nearly 20 million pounds.

In the City of San Diego alone, the San Diego Food Bank increased its distribution of food from 14 million pounds to nearly 23 million pounds over the course of the pandemic year. In addition, Lemon Grove increased from 3 million pounds to 6.2 million pounds, and El Cajon increased from 1.4 million pounds to 2.3 million pounds.

Due to the impact of the pandemic, the Food Bank’s year-over-year food distribution increased by a staggering 54% countywide. The Food Bank went from distributing, on average, 725,000 pounds of food per week to 1.2 million pounds of food per week – roughly 5 million pounds per month.

And the number of people served by the San Diego Food Bank nearly doubled since the start of the pandemic. Before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the San Diego region, the Food Bank provided food assistance to 350,000 people per month – about 11% of the county’s population.

Since March 2020, when the county declared a state of emergency, the Food Bank has served, on average, between 550,000 to 600,000 people per month due to business and school closures coupled with soaring unemployment in hard-hit industries such as retail and hospitality which employ a significant number of lower-wage workers.

YEAR-OVER-YEAR DISTRIBUTION INCREASES

The chart below illustrates the year-over-year distribution increases in key cities served by the San Diego Food Bank and its North County Food Bank chapter throughout the county.

City/Service Area Pounds Distributed
March 2019 to March 2020
Pounds Distributed
March 2020 to March 2021
Percentage Variation
Calexico 246,548 316,481 28%
Carlsbad* 468,350 1,223,306 161%
Chula Vista 3,054,985 4,076,961 33%
El Cajon 1,434,507 2,323,769 62%
Encinitas 288,790 389,669 35%
Escondido 1,379,201 1,915,872 39%
Fallbrook 608,928 836,582 37%
Julian 280,332 505,906 80%
La Mesa 549,132 1,129,367 106%
Lemon Grove 2,954,841 6,206,028 110%
National City 2,939,283 3,444,983 17%
Oceanside 1,238,273 1,679,482 36%
Poway 757,328 1,076,115 42%
Ramona 200,079 219,933 10%
San Diego 14,336,055 22,910,137 60%
San Marcos 709,491 1,055,491 49%
San Ysidro 1,114,962 1,352,153 21%
Santee 256,476 292,176 14%
Spring Valley 1,392,161 1,619,136 16%
Valley Center 81,472 168,726 107%
Vista* 562,479 2,494,313 343%

*These cities also served as distribution hubs for North County communities.

San Diego Food Bank Purchased a Record-Breaking Amount of Food to Meet Increased Need for Services

In order to keep up with the exponential increase in demand for food assistance, the Food Bank has purchased more than $11 million worth of food on the wholesale food market over the course of the year. In a typical year, the Food Bank spends a total of $1 million on food purchase. Since the start of the pandemic, the Food Bank has spent $10 million more than it would have in a normal year due to skyrocketing demand caused by the pandemic’s vicelike grip on the region’s local economy.

Thanks to the community’s donations to the Food Bank’s COVID-19 Response Programs, the Food Bank was able to purchase a variety of foods and household items on the wholesale food market to distribute to tens of thousands of families in need and households financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Purchased food and hygiene items include: frozen poultry and meats, fresh produce, bread, cereal, dairy products, canned meats, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned soup, pasta sauce, pasta, peanut butter, dry beans, oatmeal, juice, bottled water, toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Impacted Families with Infant and Toddlers Also Received Emergency Diaper Assistance

In addition, the Food Bank’s Diaper Bank Program has provided emergency diapers to working-poor parents struggling to make ends meet. Since the pandemic reached our region, demand for diaper assistance has reached an all-time high due to skyrocketing unemployment among low-income parents from hard hit industries such as retail and hospitality. From March 2020 to March 2021, the Food Bank has distributed nearly 9 million diapers to families financially impacted by the pandemic.

Super Pantry Program Launched to Serve Families with Client Dignity in Mind

In order to meet the increased demand for food assistance and to serve Food Bank clients more quickly, safely and efficiently, the Food Bank launched its Super Pantry Program in July. Currently, thirty-five Super Pantries, strategically located throughout San Diego County, are operating as high-volume distribution hubs, open throughout the week for families to receive food assistance with little or no wait times to ensure client dignity. 

Collectively, the Food Bank’s thirty-five Super Pantries are serving thousands of people daily. Since July, the Super Pantry Program alone has distributed nearly 10 million pounds of food to families in need. Super Pantries feature contactless food distributions with ‘drive-thru’ lanes and ‘walk-up’ kiosks. With longer service hours on multiple days every week, the Food Bank is serving thousands of households more safely, efficiently and quickly.

Heightened Food Insecurity Likely to Continue Due to Post-Pandemic Recession

Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank CEO James Floros said, “The Food Bank anticipates heightened food insecurity to remain for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic’s lasting impact on our local economy. Several of the hardest hit industries, retail, tourism and hospitality, will take significant time to recover. In addition, many families now find themselves saddled with crushing debt and rent repayments due on the horizon. While we see a light at the end of the tunnel with mass vaccinations underway, the San Diego Food Bank and our North County Food Bank chapter will continue to provide enhanced services to families impacted by the pandemic-induced recession in communities throughout the county.”

For monthly updates on the San Diego Food Bank’s COVID-19 Response Programs, please visit SanDiegoFoodBank.org/Impact.

If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance, please visit SanDiegoFoodBank.org/GetHelp.