Exclusive: study shows that 26.8% of people become qualified as food insecure according to risks for example missing meals or counting on food banks

Karla Peralta is encircled by food. Like a line prepare in Facebooks cafeteria, she spends her days preparing free meals for that tech firms staff. Shes labored in kitchens for many of her 3 decades in america, creating a existence in Plastic Valley like a single mom raising two kids.

But in your own home, meals are another story. The regions soaring rents and cost-of-living implies that despite a complete-time job, putting food up for grabs hasnt been simple. Through the years she’s battled to pay for groceries at some point feeding her group of three with food stamps that amounted to $75 per week, about 50 % what the government describes like a thrifty grocery budget. I was thinking, when can i cope with this? she stated.

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Inside a region famous because of its foodie culture, in which the well-heeled can dine on gold-flecked steaks, $500 tasting menus and $29 loaves of bread, hunger is alarmingly prevalent, according to a different study shared solely using the Protector.

25 percent of individuals Plastic Valley are vulnerable to hunger, researchers in the Second Harvest food bank have discovered. Using countless community interviews and knowledge modeling, new research shows that 26.8% of people almost 720,000 people become qualified as food insecure according to risks for example missing meals, counting on food banks or food stamps, borrowing money for food, or neglecting bills and rent to be able to buy groceries. Nearly one fourth are families with children.

We refer to it as the Plastic Valley paradox, states Steve Brennan, the meals banks marketing director. As the economy will get better we appear to become serving more and more people. Because the recession, Second Harvest has witnessed demand spike by 46%.


The financial institution is in the center from the Plastic Valley boom both literally and figuratively. It sits just half miles from Ciscos headquarters and counts Facebooks Sheryl Sandberg among its major contributors. However the require it serves is exacerbated with this industrys wealth as high-having to pay tech firms relocate, living costs increases for everybody else.

Food insecurity frequently comes with other poverty indicators, for example being homeless. San Jose, Plastic Valleys largest city, were built with a destitute population in excess of 4,000 people throughout a recent count. They’re hungry, too: research conducted through the Health Trust, a nearby not-for-profit, found food resources at hand are scattered and insufficient.

Nowadays Peralta earns an excessive amount of to be eligible for a food stamps, although not enough never fear. She pays $2,000 per month or three-quarters of her paycheck to book the little apartment she explains to her youngest daughter. Even just us, its still challenging. So monthly, she accumulates supplies in the food bank to supplement what she buys at the shop.

She isnt someone to complain, but acknowledges the vast gulf between the requirements of Facebook employees and contract workers for example herself. The first factor they are doing [for Facebook employees] is buy an iPhone as well as an Apple computer, and all sorts of other benefits, she laughs. Its like, wow.

The size from the problem becomes apparent on a trip to Second Harvest, the only real food bank serving Plastic Valley and among the largest in the united states. In almost any given month it offers meals for 257,000 people 66m pounds of food this past year. Inside its cavernous, 75,000 sq foot primary warehouse space, boxes of produce extended towards the ceiling. Strip lights illuminated crates of cucumbers and pallets of sweet taters having a chilly glow. Volunteers in PayPal T-shirts packed cabbages and apples that showed up in boxes as large as paddling pools, whilst in the walk-in freezer turkeys anxiously waited to defrost.




  • Inside a warehouse belonging to Second Harvest food bank in San Jose, California, where PayPal staff volunteered for the day. Photography: Talia Herman

Because poverty is often shrouded in shame, their clients situations can come as a surprise. Often we think of somebody visibly hungry, the traditional homeless person, Brennan said. But this study is putting light on the non-traditional homeless: people living in their car or a garage, working people who have to choose between rent and food, people without access to a kitchen.

He added, Youre not thinking when you pick up your shirts from dry cleaning, or getting your landscaping done, or going to a restaurant, or getting your child cared for, is that person hungry? Its very easy to assume they are fine.

Matt Sciamanna is the sort of person you would assume is fine. Hes young, clever, and a recent graduate from San Jose State University. Yet here on campus, he says, food insecurity is a daily problem. Students, and even part-time professors, happen to be known to settle their cars or couch surf to save cash. Sciamanna, who utilizes a Student Hunger Committee, says a survey in excess of 4,000 students found about 50 % have skipped meals because of the cost.

His purchase of the problem is informed by their own experience. Together with his parents not able to invest in all his living costs, Sciamanna labored inside a restaurant when studying full-time. But at 20 he was hit having a existence-altering diagnosis: ms, an illness that left his grandmother bedridden. Not able to maintain the pressures of restaurant work, he required employment on campus that compensated just $400 per month.


  • Matt Sciamanna studying. Photo: Jeromy Cesea

My weekly food budget, after other expenses, was $25-$30, he says. Trips to the grocery store became a game of numbers: a bag of apples and bananas cost less than $5 and would last a week. A bag of frozen vegetables, another $5. Sometimes I would see a ripe peach, and I would want it, but then Id think, damn, theyre $1.50 each. Its not like Im asking for a car. Im just talking about a peach. That feeling leaves a scar.

While Sciamanna says his food situation has improved, another fear looms: healthcare costs. His father, a garbage man in San Francisco, has already postponed retirement so that his son can stay on the familys insurance. Without it, Sciamanna says he could face out-of-pocket costs of thousands of dollars a month for his medication. In that scenario, obtaining food would become even more difficult. His parents live in Clear Lake, three hours outside San Francisco, meaning a six-hour daily commute for his father. You feel like youre this dead weight, youre trying to advance yourself but you dont have the money. Its a shitty feeling.

Hunger and the housing crisis go hand-in-hand. In Santa Clara County, the median price of a family home has reached a new high of $1.125m, as the way to obtain homes is constantly on the shrink. A household of 4 earning under $85,000 is now considered low income. These realities mean food insecurity cuts across lines of race, age and employment status.

On the cold, vibrant mid-day in an grade school in Menlo Park, kids trickled from their classrooms and to the playground. A food distribution had been arranged within the school gymnasium, and adults arranged outdoors with strollers and shopping carts, awaiting the doorways to spread out. Most were women, most of them moms whose children attend the college. Once inside they moved gradually and silently around tables full of bags of fresh produce, milk and bread, canned goods and beans.




  • A food distribution taking place at an elementary school in Menlo Park. Bottom right, Vicky Avila-Medrano, a food connection specialist with Second Harvest. Photography: Talia Herman

The Latino community is passing through a hard time, says Vicky Avila-Medrano, a food connection specialist. She runs a program that sends current and former food bank users out into the community, which has been disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

Here in Silicon Valley, we have a big problem. This is a beautiful place to live for people in the tech industry, but we are not working in that industry.

Even people who have full-time jobs can find themselves with no way to put food on the table. Outside the gym, Martina Rivera, a 52-year-old mental health nurse, explained that her troubles began when her entire building was evicted last year. (Mass evictions have swept the area as landlords seek greater-having to pay tenants). Issues in her own personal existence, which she preferred to not detail, left her separated from her two children as well as their father. She considered relocating with family, but concerned about the responsibility. My brother was dealing with a stroke, and my mother now has wrinkles, she states. I couldnt put more struggle in it. What exactly I discovered was my vehicle.


  • Martina Rivera, 52, originally from Peru, lived in her car for six months while working as a nurse.

She told herself it was only temporary. I work night shifts at a veterans hospital, so I would go to my moms house to shower, and wait until it was time to work. I waited and waited for the storm to pass. Eventually she found a room without a private bathroom or kitchen. She shopped for food at 99 cent stores, ate mainly canned food, and cooked in a microwave. It took a toll on her health, she says; she gained weight.

I was having panic attacks. My body was like the walking dead. But I thought, I need to keep strong. And I never quit my job.

Rivera says that for many working people, pride is a barrier to admitting need. People dont have money to buy food, but they are shy to ask. But there is no reason to feel ashamed.

The day before Thanksgiving, Karla Peralta invited me to her home. She loves to cook, and prides herself on pulling together a healthy meal even when resources are scarce. I have to cook with what I have. Even if I only have a piece of chicken, a little bit of this and that, I am a cook. I make it work.

Find out more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/dec/12/the-silicon-valley-paradox-one-in-four-people-are-at-risk-of-hunger