by Mina Kim and Erika Maldonado

A donation bin sits near shelves with canned foods at the San Francisco Food Bank in 2008. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A donation bin sits near shelves with canned foods at the San Francisco Food Bank in 2008. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Bay Area food banks are falling short on Thanksgiving this year. Though we’re climbing out of the economic downturn, more Bay Area residents are struggling to put holiday meals on the table, according to the leaders of several food banks throughout the region.

“It’s a reality many people in the community just don’t see,” says Second Harvest Food Bank CEO Kathy Jackson.

Jackson says that lack of awareness partially accounts for low donations this year. The San Francisco and Marin County Food Banks are 200 turkeys shy of their goal as of Tuesday, says Media Manager Blaine Johnson. The birds are distributed to local agencies and community groups, including Saint Anthony’s.

“We have more people at different places on the income spectrum. We have more people at the bottom who have very little and the people who used to be at the middle are moving toward the bottom. In an expensive place like San Francisco you can make $30,000, $40,000, which may kind of sound like a good income, but if you have two or three kids and you have to rent a place you can find yourself running out of food before the end of the month,” says Paul Ash, executive director of San Francisco and Marin Food Banks.

Ash says that monetary donations are also way down. The nonprofit is about $900,000 short from where it should be this time of year.

Thanksgiving’s date at the end of the month also makes it harder for people to afford a holiday meal. People often receive support at the beginning of the month and have to make that stretch out longer this year. Federal food stamp cuts could also be having an impact — a family of four received on average $30 less this month. Ash says that food banks will have a better idea of the impact on the cuts next month.

“We had hoped that as the recession has ended we might see that the lines at our pantries recede. But what we’ve seen is the same high level, and in fact maybe a few more people coming to our pantries asking for help,” Ash says.

Beyond the birds, money donations can help families long after the holidays. A $1 donation can feed a person two nutritious meals, Jackson says. Protein-rich foods are always in demand among food banks, including canned tuna, peanut butter and granola bars. Volunteers are also in demand after the holidays to help distribute donated goods to the community.

Many food banks are still accepting donations for Thanksgiving:

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