Emergency Food Program in Jeopardy?

EFPAC Chair Barbara Gibson

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor

The chairperson of the City of Oakland’s Emergency Food Providers Advisory Committee is concerned that her program is being eliminated in Mayor Jean Quan’s proposed budget cutbacks, but a spokesperson for the mayor says that this is not so, and the program money is still in the budget.
EFPAC Chair Barbara Gibson said in an interview this week she first heard earlier this month that the City of Oakland is considering eliminating the $100,000 line item from the food distribution budget to help meet the city’s looming financial shortfall.
The money is used to purchase food that volunteers distribute at 13 sites around the city on the third Friday of the month for nine months of the year. An average of 200 people are served at each site distribution.
The distribution program is coordinated through the Alameda County Food Bank and is run by the Human Services Department of the City of Oakland.
“If they take the funds away, it’s going to have a devastating effect on people,” Gibson said. “People have come to depend on it, especially when we include things like chicken. They’ll come up and ask ‘do you have chicken today?’”
Gibson said she learned about the possible loss of the food distribution funding from the city’s Human Services Department.
But Quan Communications Director Sean Maher says that no cuts to the program have been made in the budget recently submitted by the mayor to City Council.
“There is $100,000 in the budget for emergency food,” Maher said “and that is not proposed the mayor’s budget to be cut.” Maher said he reviewed both the budget documents and confirmed it with department staff.
Maher said confusion may have come because the program providers applied for a different amount of Community Development Block Grant money but were turned down.
As of now, the Oakland free food distribution is still scheduled to take place next month at the following locations: Wings of Love Church, 7007 Mac Arthur Boulevard; The Oakland Food Pantry, 1624 Peralta Street; Ephesian Missionary Baptist Church 1423 34th Street; Friendship Christian Center, 1904 Adeline Street; Unity Outreach Church, 9941 “D” Street; Elmhurst Presbyterian Church, 1332 – 98th Avenue; Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church, 3535 38th Avenue; Downs Memorial Church, 6026 Idaho Street; Telegraph Ministry Center, 5316 Telegraph Avenue; Agnes Memorial Church, 2372 International Boulevard; St. Elizabeth’s School, 1500 34th Avenue; and St. Anthony’s Church, 1535 16th Avenue.
Only proof of Oakland residency is required to receive the bags of food, and food is distributed on a first come, first served basis.
More information on the food distribution program can be obtained from the City of Oakland Department of Human Services, Hunger and Homeless Program at 510 238-7754.