But Griffen, executive director of the Imperial Valley Food Bank, knows how the excess amount of potatoes, canned goods and other items stored in the food bank’s warehouse can fluctuate month to month, especially at a time when the need is high during a down economy.
That need is reflected in how the food bank served more than 166,000 Imperial Valley residents in 2009, which represents an increase over 2008’s tally of more than 121,900 people, according to statistics.
In December, there was a total of 19,000 “clients” served, which includes people who come back, Griffen said.
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“That’s 12 percent of the county,” Griffen said of December’s figure.
With job prospects looking dim and the unemployment rate clocked in at roughly 28 percent — reportedly the highest in the nation — the economic doldrums appear to have some bearing in the increased need of the food bank, which enters its 20th year this year, officials said.
Layoffs and a dwindling social safety net are economic problems that can be tied to a steadily growing need for food assistance here and elsewhere around the state, said Ron Clark, food sourcing and logistics manager with the California Association of Food Banks.
Imperial County wasn’t the only county that saw an increase in the need for food assistance programs as shown by the 30 percent to 35 percent hike for such services in 2010 throughout the state, Clark said.
“It’s bad out there,” he said.
The quality of food distributed to the shelters and soup kitchens in the Imperial Valley is solid, said Steve Sharp, a food solicitor for the state food bank association.
The food itself may not have been “retailable,” Griffen said, but it was still fit for consumption. Sharp said there has been an increase in the number of people coming to food banks to “pick up stuff.”
When food wasn’t being picked up here it was being distributed, with a total of 3 million pounds of it from the local food bank’s warehouse last year, Griffen said.
Ideally, Griffen said, she wants to increase the bag size of cheese, chicken, apple sauce and other goods individually given to people from 10 pounds to 18 pounds.
“We just want to do what we’re doing, but do it better,” Griffen said.
Staff Writer Silvio J. Panta can be reached at 760 337-3442 or at email@example.com