Students Battle Falling Donations
Students battle falling donations
November 29, 2004 5:05 AM
With the holidays looming, non-profit agencies across the Bay Area are putting out the call for contributions with extra urgency as donations of clothes, food, and funds make themselves scarce on the shelves. With a confluence of factors contributing to the slowdown in donations, many groups—including several at SF State—are making an effort to ensure that the needy can celebrate a happier holiday this year.
The San Francisco Food Bank has been hit hard by this year’s drop-off.
“We’ve seen a drop in donations since August,” said Jessica Castelli, a coordinator for the San Francisco Food Bank. “Our donations have seen a drop of about 200,000 pounds a month on average in terms of food.”
“Initially, donations came in very slowly,” said Jenny Luciano, spokesperson for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties. Although publicity did result in a surge of donations for Thanksgiving, Luciano said that the group still has “definitely not met our goal for the holiday season.”
At San Francisco’s Glide Memorial Church, the story was the same.
Organizers cite several reasons for the slowdown in donations.
“I think people were distracted from giving by a number of things,” Luciano said. “Certainly there were the elections, and the Scott Peterson trial, and a number of work issues. Thanksgiving just snuck up on people.”
“One reason is the hurricanes in Florida which wiped out a lot of the produce and put California produce more in demand,” Castelli added. “Also, companies are more concerned with the bottom line. Food that would have been donated to us in the past is now going to secondary markets (such as discount groceries and 99 cent stores).”
A drop in donations means that food banks may have to make difficult choices, such as giving out smaller bags of food or otherwise cutting back services. Whatever the reason, potential cutbacks can be devastating for the needy, many of whom are working poor who cannot make ends meet.
According to urban studies professor Carol Silverman, “People are first poor because wages in many occupations are insufficient to provide for all basic necessities, particularly in a place such as San Francisco where housing is so expensive. Even those who work full time may run out of money by the end of the month.”
One of them is the Students of Shalom, who have set up a number of donation bins on the ground floor of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. The group formed out of the homelessness and public policy course at SF State, taught by Bev Ovrebo.
According to Ovrebo, “(Giving) is very important…In the words of Gandhi, ‘No matter what you do, it may not make a difference, but it is very important that you do it.’
SF State’s Community Involvement Center also has donation bins in the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Students can also contact the CIC for more ways to help.
“It’s the holidays, and there are so many people out there who are homeless and don’t have the privileges that even we as students have,” said CIC Program Coordinator Michelle Penez. “Our mission is to get involved in the community and help those who need help.”
Organizations stressed that while the holidays are a popular time to give, donations are needed all the time.
“We raise 25 percent of our annual budget between October and January,” Castelli said. “It’s the giving season, but it’s important to give all year round.”
“We continue to address homelessness and poverty as an emergency to which charity and emergency help is extended at certain times of the year,” she said, “rather than as an entrenched social problem rooted in failed policies and social injustice.”
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