The Alameda County Community Food Bank this holiday season is preparing to feed thousands of families still struggling to put food on the table.

But the food bank said it is doing much more with less. The coronavirus emergency food it was receiving from the USDA stopped coming.

“In September and October we had USDA boxes,” said Matthew Merzbacher, a food bank volunteer. “They were heavy, they had a gallon of milk (and) usually some frozen meat.”

Merzbacher, who is now retired, spends his Wednesday mornings loading up hundreds of strangers’ trunks with boxes of food. Strangers like Mark Andresen from San Leandro, who said he can usually put together a one pot stew of whatever the food bank is able to give him.

“I think if I was trying to live off it, I’d go pretty hungry,” Andresen said.

The Alameda County Community Food Bank said over the summer the boxes were stuffed with hundreds of pounds of food from the federal coronavirus food assistance program, also known as CFAP.

“We were getting six truckloads a week for this program in July, but starting in November, the program is not available to any food banks in the Bay Area because there aren’t any food vendors for us,” said Michael Altfest with the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

NBC Bay Area reached out to the USDA and are still waiting to hear back.

In the meantime, the food bank is filling the gap by spending millions of their own money on food.

“The only way we’re able to do this work is by getting donations,” Altfest said. “Right now we can fill the gap, but we need continuous support.”


By Kelley Wheeler

Kelley Wheeler is a Metro reporter covering political issues and general assignments. A second-generation journalist, worked with all major news outlet, she holds a vast expeirience. Kelley is a graduate of USC with degrees in journalism and English literature. She is a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

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