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Sacramento's urban food deserts and food bank expansions

Food insecurity exists in Sacramento and its suburbs. Do you live in the south Sacramento area with the 95828 ZIP code boxed by Fruitridge Road to the north, Elk Grove-Florin Road to the east, and Calvine Road to the south? Nobody who has to buy food to feed the family wants to live in what's often called an urban food desert where affordable food markets are too distant for many families, whether you're a senior or a single parent family, or any type of family that often runs out of money to buy food in the middle of each month. The nonprofit food bank, Elk Grove Food Bank Services is focusing its expansion to south Sacramento because too many hungry families are falling through the cracks when it comes to access to food.

Sacramento's urban food deserts and food bank expansions.
Anne Hart, photography.

The statistics tell you that about 3,300 families and seniors a month are served in some capacity by Elk Grove Food Bank. Nearly 35,000 people used the food bank’s services during the 2012-2013 fiscal year. You have the working poor, people laid off from jobs, senior citizens on very low fixed incomes, single parents, and anyone else struggling to put food on the family table and keep people together.

What urban food deserts need most is commitment to make people more secure when it comes to access to basic foods

Some seniors are based at home and of low mobility and need donated food delivered to their homes, rooms, or apartments. Also, you have people coming to food banks also looking for donations of pet food for their cat or dog. See, "Elk Grove Food Bank Services Opens Pet Pantry - Elk Grove News." There are different food banks for different areas of Sacramento and its suburbs. Check out, "Food Bank Locator - Together we Can Solve Hunger‎."

Some people are simply walking away from conventional medicine and turning to food as medicine. Others have to make choices. For example, this year, there has been a 40 percent increase in people over the age of 60 asking food banks for help, and the year is only two months old at this date. The big problem is food insecurity. Compound that with healthcare insecurity, and where to live, and you have a need for food banks in urban food deserts.

Sacramento, including Elk Grove, and other areas such as south Sacramento is seeing a very fast increase in people over age 60 who have so little income, that they have to choose between rent or prescription drugs

If you live in the Sacramento area, you also can check out the website of the California Emergency Foodlink. At no charge to recipient agencies, Foodlink delivers more than 120 million pounds of food per year throughout California. Foodlink delivers government commodities from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) as well as fresh produce collected under the statewide agricultural food rescue program, Donate-Don’t Dump (DDD). Through innovative programming and an intense desire to create change, Foodlink has been fighting hunger in California for nearly two decades. There are several food banks operating in Sacramento.

As far as the Elk Grove Food Bank, it has just announced that it's expanding its services to south Sacramento, particularly the ZIP code area 95828 that before now has been falling through the cracks as far as access to food to feed the area's families, including single parents, seniors, and anyone else living in the area's affordable neighborhoods.

People move to certain ZIP code areas because they're affordable

But every part of Sacramento needs to have access to food. There shouldn't be any areas known as urban food deserts. You also can have a situation where someone lives in an apartment next to a supermarket and still can't afford the food, including the healthier foods, simply because the money available to people on fixed incomes runs out 10 days before the end of each month.

People working at the food bank also are working to locate space to open a satellite center, according to the February 21, 2014 Sacramento Bee news article by Darrell Smith, "Elk Grove Food Bank expanding its reach into south Sacramento." Families living in that ZIP code not only have poor access to food unless they grow produce themselves in their yard, but also a different life expectancy statistic and a different chronic disease statistic from those in Sacramento who live in other ZIP code areas.

The nonprofit food bank now based in Elk Grove plans to dispatch mobile food pantries in the coming weeks to serve low-income seniors and struggling families who cannot get to the food bank

See the UC Davis Health "article, "2013 Community Health Needs Assessment and the Sierra article, "The Chronic Disease Experience of Sacramento County Residents." So how do you help bring healthier food to this ZIP code area so that people who must eat don't fall through the cracks? You could start with a food bank to help close the hunger gap in local neighborhoods.

More people in Sacramento are learning about what it means to live in the ZIP code that ends in 828. It's about living in an area where there is not nearby access to enough food markets. To live in Sacramento's ZIP code 95828 means you're dwelling in the ZIP code with the highest jobless rate in Sacramento County outside of rural Walnut Grove, according to the state Employment Development Department. U.S. census figures estimate that more than one-fifth of its residents live below the poverty level.

The goal of a food bank is to provide essential resources to overcome the many faces of hunger and human need

Elk Grove Food Bank Services, operating for the past 40 years in Elk Grove, is responding to increasing hunger in the Sacramento area community by bringing food to those who need it the most. The food bank is expanding to serve South Sacramento neighborhoods.

All you have to do is cross over Calvine Road, and you've landed in ZIP code 95828. What the number symbolizes to many Sacramentans and some of the people living there is not so good access to affordable food for families. The issue is that south Sacramento neighborhoods bordering Elk Grove are not as close as they'd like to be to large grocery stores with affordable wide food choices.

At the same time, people living in ZIP code 95828 area don't have access to the closest food bank, located in Elk Grove

Who lives in the ZIP code 95828 are many single-parent families who by the 20th (of each month) are out of food and money. That's why Elk Grove Food Bank Services is expanding its reach into South Sacramento areas. North of Elk Grove city limits sits south Sacramento neighborhoods. People living there because of the affordable prices of homes and rentals are there because it's not an expensive area in which to reside. It's affordable. That's the point.

And a lot of people don't want to live in urban deserts where the nearest supermarket is miles away. When a family runs out of money in the third week of each month, they often turn to food banks. The nearest food bank is Elk Grove Food Bank Services. After 40 years operating in Elk Grove, the food bank finally is expanding to serve south Sacramento neighborhoods, where there is a great need for help with feeding families.

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