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SLO Food Bank feeding over 31,000 people a month as demand surges

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Posted at 8:07 PM, Jul 05, 2023

The San Luis Obispo Food Bank is preparing for another spike in the number of people in need of their services.

Right now, the SLO Food Bank is feeding over 31,000 people a month.

To put that in perspective, that’s the entire population of the City of Paso Robles.

Living paycheck to paycheck means difficult decisions between buying groceries and paying bills on time.

That’s where the SLO Food Bank steps in to help.

‘We’re now settled in at a new normal which is providing well over four million pounds of food to our community every year,” said SLO Food Bank CEO Garret Olson.

The demand for donated food soared to record levels during the pandemic and there are still tens of thousands of people who depend on the food bank.

“The high cost of living is really the foundation on which food insecurity is set here in San Luis Obispo County,” explained Olson.

Many people haven’t been able to catch a break.

First, there was the pandemic. Then came record-high inflation.

“For my entire tenure here, all we’ve seen is hunger escalate in our community,” said Olson, who took over as CEO at the start of the pandemic.

Now, the food bank is preparing for another surge in demand as pandemic-era benefits continue to be rolled back.

“Now, we’re seeing at the federal level changes in eligibility—work requirements for people to be eligible for nutrition assistance,” explained Olson.

Meeting the needs of the community starts at the main warehouse near the San Luis Obispo Airport, where food is packed and sent out to some 60 distribution centers across the county.

“We’ve done disaster relief bags where we pack fresh food and vegetables and put it in a bag, or no-cook bags which have foods that you don’t need to cook to eat. Right now, we’re making breakfast bags with a lot of food,” explained Abhishek Pillai, a volunteer who is still in high school.

He says he wants to help people out and pay it forward.

“I was talking to somebody right before and they said, ‘What if we need this kind of help when we’re older?’ So, it’s like paying it forward right now,” said Pillai.

With tens of thousands of people in need of assistance, chances are high that you know someone in need of help.

“It would surprise me if anyone watching this interview wasn’t one or two people removed from someone who is experiencing food insecurity right now,” said Olson. “We are quite literally—through donations and volunteers—we are the physical embodiment of neighbors helping neighbors.”

More than 1,700 people volunteered for the SLO Food Banklast year.

While there is no shortage of volunteers, they’re alwayslooking for some extra help.