Monterey County, CA – Pallets of canned goods and bins of produce sit in tall stacks at the Food Bank for Monterey County. It looks like a lot, but this food is pretty much as good as gone. "It's just growing. It's just the numbers are just growing and growing," said Executive Director Leslie Sunny. She's talking about the increased demand on the Food Bank. In the last fiscal year, the number of families served by the Food Bank jumped 54%. That number is on track for yet another increase. "Our goal is hopefully never to turn anybody away hungry. Giving somebody a bag that only has five to six items in it, doesn't feel great, but we do know they'll eat that night at least. And sometimes when you live in poverty, you live day by day," she added.
The Food Bank also takes it day by day. Over the years, government and grocery store donations have gone down, and for the first time in a long time, community donations have stayed flat. "Well I still think if you stayed flat and you did what you did last year, then you did very well," said Sunny.
In these tight economic times, flat is the new up for charitable organizations. So that means down is really down, especially for the Boys and Girls Club of Monterey County. The club provides development programs for about 700 kids in Salinas and Seaside. This non-profit relies on community donations, and this year, donations are down 30%. "We've done a lot of things. We've cut our budget down almost 10%. Our senior leadership staff has taken a 20% pay cut, so we're doing everything possible so that we can keep moving forward to do what we're here to do," said President Donna Ferraro.
One thing they haven't cut is the annual holiday program. Each year staff identifies the families in need, and through community donations, makes sure the kids get necessities and a gift. Last year about 75 local families received help from the Boys and Girls Club. This year, more than 120 have asked for assistance. So far the Club has secured gifts for about half. "We're going to do everything possible. We have a lot of people doing toy drives for us right now so hopefully at least we can get a child a toy, but a lot of our kids need a lot more. A lot of our kids are homeless, they're living in cars, living in motels and they need warm clothes," added Ferraro.