Humboldt’s hidden crisis: food insecurity

Food for People, the food bank for Humboldt County, has been feeding hungry families in our community for more than 40 years. Normally in the Humboldt community, one in 10 people relies on our services. Because of COVID-19 and the associated economic crises, Food for People is now serving 40 percent more people – including many who have never had to use a food bank before. Unfortunately, we believe this trend will continue for some time. Between now and the end of the year, we anticipate the level of need will increase by 50 percent or more.

The pandemic hasn’t just increased need; it’s fundamentally altered how we operate. Many are suffering in our community with the call for self-isolation – from families staying home with kids, to seniors unable to leave the home, or those experiencing lost wages or revenues. Food for People’s team has been hard at work making sure we can safely provide food to those in need, adapting food distribution models to be safe and socially distant, increasing our home delivery caseload, and implementing new drive-through food distributions to meet the increased need quickly and safely.

We need support now more than ever. Thankfully, many in the community have stepped up to help. We also have new partners in the battle against hunger in Humboldt County like the Delta Dental Community Care Foundation. Food insecurity is a significant concern for overall health and wellness and is closely connected to oral health.

Several studies have examined the relationship between food insecurity and dental caries, which is the condition that causes tooth decay. All have found a strong link between the two. In Humboldt County, 25 percent of children have poor oral health outcomes, and 60 percent of adults have lost a tooth to untreated tooth decay or gum disease. While many potential causes can account for those numbers, we cannot ignore food insecurity as being among them.

At a basic level, if you don’t have teeth or your mouth is in chronic pain from untreated dental issues, eating becomes a difficult task. Many food banks, including Food for People, understand this and work with experts to offer softer or more accessible food options for seniors or others with poor oral health.

Food insecurity and poor oral health are deeply intertwined and affect the Humboldt community, but we can fight both together. The Delta Dental Community Care Foundation has awarded Food for People $25,000 to help support the vital work of feeding hungry families this holiday season. Join us in providing food for your neighbors in need. Someone you know may be struggling and may not know where to turn for help or be too embarrassed to ask.

If you’ve been spared the economic fallout from this pandemic, please consider making a donation. With the money you would spend on one bag of groceries, Food for People, we can buy three. If you need help putting food on the table, we are here for you, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth. For information about how to support or access our services, visit

This has been a challenging year for our community, our country and the world. This crisis will end, and we will get through it by coming together.

We wish you all a happy and healthy holiday season.

Carly Robbins is the development director of Food for People. Contact: (707) 599-0855

Kenzie Ferguson is vice president for foundation and corporate social responsibility at Delta Dental of California and its affiliates