More than 18 months into the pandemic, San Francisco Bay Area nonprofit organizations, from food banks to shelters for domestic violence victims, say that they are seeing more demand for their services than they ever saw before the pandemic. Even now, there are still two members of the California National Guard working at the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties’ central warehouse in Fairfield.
As the pandemic drags on, these support facilities are also struggling with supply chain problems to meet the seemingly endless demand. It presents even more challenges as supplies and workers grow more scarce. Joel Sjostrom, president and CEO of the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties, has watched the food bank’s demand grow to 300,000 people at the height of the pandemic from 178,000 before the pandemic began. He is now still trying to find support for 240,000 clients each month.
Almost immediately after the March 2020 shelter-in-place order was instituted, he said, his organization lost 35 percent of its volunteer workforce because it depends so heavily on older volunteers who were scared to work before they were vaccinated. He had to call in members of the California National Guard, two of which remain.
“To meet those volume increases, we have had to step up facilities and transportation,” Sjostrom added. “I had heard of the National Guard being helpful to others in Southern California.”
At one point, there were as many as 25 soldiers working to help this one bank. In California, the National Guard, as of Thursday, still had 140 soldiers deployed to food banks across 16 counties, down from a high of 767 in April 2020, according to Lt. Col. Jonathan M. Shiroma, a California National Guard spokesperson. But the National Guard is gradually trying to cut those numbers back and deploy these workers to other missions.
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