American Gallery: There is No One Face of Hunger

Faces of hunger.(Photos by David Bacon)David Bacon’s revealing photos can be seen in Berkley’s Addison Street windows through Dec. 15. The gallery, displayed in windows at 2018 Addison St., between Shattuck and Milvia, can be seen 24 hours a day.

Hunger is faced by people in every neighborhood in our community, every day – young and old, working and unemployed. Today 16 percent of Californians struggle with how they’ll afford their next meal. Meanwhile Congress debates and passes bills that make massive cuts in nutrition programs.

These photographs document a social fact that many would rather not see – that people in this richest of all countries go hungry. But these photographs also document what we as a community can do to care for each other and ensure that everyone can eat, while we struggle for a society and world in which no one will go hungry.

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This show is a cooperative project between documentary photographer David Bacon and the Alameda County Community Food Bank, shown with the support of the Civic Arts Program of the City of Berkeley, Greg Morozumi, curator.

Cornerstone Baptist Church, Oakland
Families line up on the sidewalk outside a storefront where church members bag food, and then distribute to the hungry.

Davis Street Family Resource Center, San Leandro
As she reaches out her hand to that of an older man who volunteers every week bagging food, a woman shows that often getting food means more than just not going hungry. Across lines of race and age, providing and receiving food shows we care for each other.

Mary Katherine, Oakland
Mary Katherine lives with her son in a single room occupancy hotel in downtown Oakland. The room where she lives has no kitchen or refrigerator to store food, and often has to choose between buying food and buying medicine. She depends on St. Mary’s Center for meals.

Project Help, Oakland
In this East Oakland neighborhood, the line for food stretches around the edge of the parking lot of a laundromat, and on down the block.

Good Samaritan, Oakland
Chinese women and children come from this neighborhood of East Oakland where people need food. More than 60 percent of the people getting food from local food distributions in the county are children and seniors.

Hope for the Heart, Hayward
While their parents line up for food, the children from immigrant Mexican families watch a volunteer in a clown costume try to entertain them.

Davis Street Family Resource Center, San Leandro
Beverly Cherkoff in front of the van where she lives. She makes meals in her van from the food she gets in the distribution, and serves it to other hungry people in the area where she parks it.

Columbian Gardens, Oakland
Mexican immigrants in Oakland and the East Bay make up a big percentage of families who don’t have enough food. Many single mothers especially work fulltime and earn so little that they need food programs.


Nnekia, Oakland
Nnekia was an on-call worker for several years at the NUMMI auto assembly plant in Fremont. When it closed, even though she was working another job as well, she had to move in with her mother. Both depend on the Cornerstone Baptist Church food distribution.

Hope for the Heart, Hayward
So many people need food in this working-class neighborhood that they line up the night before the food distribution and sleep on the sidewalk. A young woman wakes up after spending the night in line.


Some 16 percent of all families are food insecure – they don’t have the money to buy enough food at some point duirng the year. That amounts to 49 million people, including more than 16 million children, almost a quarter of all the children in the United States.

About a third of those families simply didn’t get enough food to eat – these families went hungry. That includes 12 million adults, and 5 million kids.

Hunger isn’t really spread evenly, as is obvious when you think about it. More in Oakland. Less in Lafayette. More than a quarter of all black and Latino households are food insecure – compared to 16 percent in general. And more than 13 percent of all families made up of single moms and their children are not just food insecure, but outright hungry.

Some 42.2 percent of food-insecure households have incomes below the official poverty line – $21,834 for a family of four. So more than half of all hungry families actually have incomes over the poverty line. Millions of families not officially “in poverty” still don’t have enough money to buy the food they need.

Breadwinners in hundreds of thousands of California families have lost their jobs. Families that formerly had no trouble feeding themselves, and even went out to eat in restaurants, can’t put enough food on the table at home at some point to keep everyone from getting up hungry.

So people go to food banks, food pantries and soup kitchens to try to make up for what they can no longer buy. Across the country, almost 5 million people went to food pantries last year. About 625,000 ate in soup kitchens.

Alameda County, with a population of 1.5 million, has probably a quarter of a million food insecure people. Contra Costa 160,000. Oakland 64,000. Berkeley and Richmond 16,000 each. Hayward more than 22,000 and Alameda more than 11,000. There are more than 20,000 hungry children in Oakland alone. Do the math for your own neighborhood or city.

These are the numbers. The real question is, in your neighborhood? On your street? In the house down your block, or next door? Or could we be talking about you?

Copyright David Bacon