CONCORD (KPIX 5) — As people shelter in place in their homes, food banks across the Bay Area are having difficulty getting enough help to meet a skyrocketing demand.

A week ago, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano in Concord was having problems because businesses weren’t sending their employees to volunteer.

On Wednesday, many of those businesses aren’t even operating. They’re shut down because they’re considered “non-essential.”

But for the people who work at those businesses, they are literally the way their families get fed. And as more and more workers go without a paycheck, local food banks are becoming a lifeline.

“Not everybody has the additional savings to carry through,” said food bank President and CEO Joel Sjostrom.  “This is going to be a huge supplement to those people and a safety net for new need in our communities, literally next week.”

On Wednesday, there was a long line to receive fresh produce at Concord’s Church of the Nazarene. The number of working people who need help is rising but, ironically, the same thing creating more need is also hurting the food bank’s operation: “social distancing” to prevent the infection is also keeping away many of the volunteers food banks rely on.

And there are a lot of people with time on their hands these days; people like Concord high school student Allison Grisanci, who volunteered to bag potatoes.

“I don’t know, I’m just kind of happy,” she said. “I get to help people. It’s better than sitting in my bed watching Netflix or something.”

And as essential as the food bank’s mission might be, the volunteers did have to consider the risk.

When asked if she had any fear about coming to the food bank and working around other people, Nora Peterson replied, “Well, sort of. But I’m taking all the precautions so, I feel like I’m OK.”

“Yes, it feels pretty safe, because the warehouse is big,” said volunteer Cristina Lopez. “We’re not breathing right on top of each other and no one here is sick. No one’s coughing or sneezing.”

In this crisis, it does take some courage to help those in need even when it’s just bagging food for hungry people. But the volunteers said it is probably less dangerous than going to a crowded store to shop for your own family.

“Yeah, it’s a lot safer than buying toilet paper!” said volunteer Sam Monteith.

Bay Area food banks serve hundreds of thousands of clients each month.  Now they’re asking for donations and volunteers to help cover the increased demand created by the shelter in place.

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