Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), whose mission is to passionately pursue a hunger-free community, has been a tremendous partner to Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation and a vital community resource in providing food and fighting hunger and poverty in Oakland and Alameda County. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, ACCFB distributed around 34 million pounds of food in 2019, which dramatically increased to 52 million pounds of food in 2020 respectively.
In early March of 2020, the Eat. Learn. Play. team had an urgent meeting with ACCFB to strategize how to help students and families in Oakland and Alameda County in the midst of rising concerns surrounding the rapid progression and spread of COVID-19. Before the pandemic, food insecurity in Alameda County was already a widespread issue affecting 1 in 5 residents, including 18,000 Oakland kids who relied on their schools for two or more of their daily meals. Thus, the Eat. Learn. Play. and ACCFB partnership signified a pivotal moment filled with opportunity and momentum to address the Oakland community’s growing needs in every way possible.
Eat. Learn. Play. co-founders, Stephen and Ayesha Curry, were immediately and entirely committed to ensuring the foundation would do everything it could to support Oakland, through the pandemic, as long as the need was great. Collaborating with our community partners, like ACCFB, to scale and grow the number of meals served and delivered to Oakland residents was the highest priority. Michael Altfest, ACCFB’s Director of Community Engagement and Marketing, chatted with us to reflect on the impact the Eat. Learn. Play. partnership has had in scaling their efforts in feeding the community during this global health crisis.
“Stephen and Ayesha’s video had a profound impact on emphasizing the magnitude of the pandemic on hunger and poverty. It was the indication for the world to stop and say, ‘Okay, COVID-19 is spreading rapidly globally, and we need to focus on it quickly.’” The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) had just announced immediate school closures, and Alameda County, like the rest of the nation, mandated non-essential businesses and restaurants to completely shut down operations. A global health crisis was unfolding right before our eyes, and disaster relief organizations, like ACCFB, promptly shifted into high gear to feed the thousands of individuals and families in Alameda County who had suddenly lost their jobs and were struggling to put food on the table. Alfest continued, “Millions of people watched the video on Instagram, and overnight, people seemed to realize [the effects of the pandemic on hunger and poverty] is not just here in Alameda County–it’s worldwide. Having visibility was not only about getting in front of people who wanted to help out; it was also driving awareness to families who could use the assistance too.”
In 2020 alone, our partnership with ACCFB has provided 6,471,000 fresh meals to residents in Oakland and Alameda County. Many of these individuals and families relied on the food bank for the first time in their lives due to the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic. Food banks, like ACCFB, have been the core of feeding America’s population struggling with food insecurity, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only doubled the number of households with this growing problem.
Altfest continued, “We’re servicing our agency network at a far greater capacity than we had before the pandemic…We added drive-thru distributions and school partnerships, which kicked off with Eat. Learn. Play., as well as other pilot initiatives like home delivery programs to expand to a broader realm of people who might be homebound, particularly families who had COVID positive members or quarantined.” Shortly after the pandemic began, ACCFB research showed up to half of Alameda County residents, 50% of the approximately 1.6 million people, were experiencing some level of food insecurity. Also, a few weeks into the beginning of the pandemic, the call volume at the emergency food helpline went up 1,000%–10 times higher than what it was before the pandemic.
Now, in 2021, we’re looking forward to continuing our hunger relief work in Oakland, and nationwide, alongside ACCFB to provide local residents with 6 million meals of nutritious food. Hunger rates in America have doubled in the past year, with nearly 14 million kids going hungry every day. In Oakland, 1 in 4 kids struggle with food insecurity, with Black and brown populations most affected, and we’re committed to ensuring every child and family has access to the nutritious food they need to thrive every day.
Altfest says he and ACCFB’s team remain hopeful as the Oakland community continues to radiate positivity and support for one another. “Because of everything that has happened over the last year and the impact we've been able to have, we're not only hopeful the community is going to continue to support us, but a lot of people who could have used help in the past and may not have known where to turn, now have a place to go.” Alfest concluded, “At the core of this is: we are acquiring food, procuring food, and distributing it out to the community. We were ready to go when this happened because people care. It's as simple as that. This has continued on through this past year, and I have all the faith it's going to continue happening for as long as we need it.”
For more information on the Alameda County Community Food Bank, please visit https://www.accfb.org/.
Photography provided by Eat. Learn. Play. Foundation and Alameda County Community Food Bank.