Special Blog Post by Ellen Coppins, Market Research Analyst
Lunch at the Library Program at Morgan Hill Library in Morgan Hill, California
Hunger is a complex topic, but a variety of reports and articles released in 2018 can help us better understand why so many in our area face this problem. Below you’ll find links to key reports and studies on our community, with highlights from each.
Hunger is pervasive in Silicon Valley. Sometimes it’s hard to tell who among us is struggling to put food on the table.
The Bay Area’s hidden hungry are the Hayward delivery driver and homemaker who rely on the food bank to feed their family of five. They are the seniors struggling to get enough to eat in East Palo Alto, just 2 miles from Facebook headquarters and its free employee meals. They are the diabetics showing up in emergency rooms in Oakland with low blood sugar at the end of the month because they ran out of food. They are the undocumented families sharing tiny apartments in the South Bay, cooking beans on camp stoves in their bedrooms.
Over the past 20 years, the Silicon Valley labor market has continued to be characterized by stagnating wages for many, growing inequality, and continued insecurity.
Over the past 20 years, economic input in Silicon Valley increased by 74 percent, but inflation-adjusted wages fell for 90 percent of jobs. Nine in 10 Silicon Valley-jobs pay lower wages than they did in the late 1990s.
Net job growth in the last 20 years has been disproportionately in low wage jobs, with the proportion of workers in low wage jobs increasing by 25%, while the proportion of workers in middle and upper wage jobs declined.
San Mateo County’s lowest-income renters spend 69% of income on rent, leaving little left for food, transportation, health care, and other essentials.
Renters in San Mateo County need to earn $65.29/ hour – nearly 6 times state minimum wage and more than twice the average hourly pay of a teacher, licensed nurse or carpenter – to afford the median monthly asking rent of $3,395.
When housing costs are considered, San Mateo County’s poverty rate rises from 7% to 16.6%.
About 870,000 people in the Bay Area are food-insecure, meaning that there are as many people as the entire population of San Francisco who do not always know the source of their next meal. Most are working families and senior citizens who are struggling to eat in the region due to a variety of factors.
The typical maintenance worker in San Jose earned $7,500 less than needed to meet basic needs, while service workers, including child care and personal trainers, came in $10,000 short annually.
Kids in our area are also experiencing food insecurity, which has been shown to increase hospitalizations, poor health, iron deficiency, and behavior problems like aggression, anxiety, depression, and ADHD. College students are also at risk and struggle to learn without the nutritious food they need.
Caregivers of young children in low-income, unstable housing are twice as likely than those in stable housing to be in fair or poor health, and they are almost three times more likely to report depressive symptoms. Children under age four in these families had almost a 20% increased risk of hospitalization and over a 25% increased risk of developmental delay.
Nutritious meals matter. Households that lack proper nutrition can be caught in a vicious cycle of poverty, food insecurity and poor health. Fresh produce, lean protein and other healthy foods are expensive and sometimes hard to get. The lack of access to nutrient-rich foods is hurting those who can’t afford them. Without nutritious food, adults face higher rates of diseases like diabetes, and seniors risk malnutrition.