Food services that support struggling Napa County families face belt-tightening amid reduced federal funding and shrinking donations.

The Napa Valley Food Bank faces the loss of $13,000 from a federal program that has propped up local food relief for almost three decades. Meanwhile, the Salvation Army Napa Corps lost $5,400 it once received from the program, while seeing food donations slide from $361,000 to $238,000 in the past year, officials said.

The Congressional fight over budget cuts as a condition for raising the federal debt limit ended with reduced funds for the emergency food program, which began in 1983.

Bay Area-wide, social service agencies are making do with $1.5 million less than a year ago, the result of a 40 percent funding cut to the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program. Food and shelter services in Napa County will get about $48,000 less this fiscal year, officials said.

This fiscal year, the national board is funding only areas where the jobless rate is more than 2 percent over the national rate, currently 9.1 percent. 

About 9.2 percent of eligible Napa County residents were unemployed in July, leaving the area ineligible for federal money. San Francisco also was shut out of federal funds for having a relatively low jobless rate, losing nearly $600,000.

The number of people directly served by the Napa Food Bank fell slightly in 2010 to 14,268. However, visits to the county’s food pantries surged by more than 12,000 to 56,340 from a year earlier, officials said.

A quarter of those receiving the food aid are jobless, 14 percent are 60 or older and 42 percent are minors, according to the food bank.

Historically, funds from the emergency board have covered various staples such as cereal, peanut butter, pasta and canned goods, Shirley King, director of the Napa Food Bank, said. 

The $13,000 cut would have covered more than a three-month supply of rice and pinto beans, King said. Those are two of the staple foods the agency has had trouble keeping in stock this year, along with tuna, peanut butter and cereal, she said.

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The food bank expects to operate on a $594,000 budget this fiscal year, representing fundraising and nearly $200,000 worth of donated food from groceries and local food drives, officials said.

The use of an area’s unemployment rate to allocate federal aid ignores the burdens of poor people trying to make ends meet in otherwise affluent areas, according to King.

“Unfortunately the high cost of living is such that (after) they pay their bills, their rent, their medication, the first thing they compromise on is their food supply,” she said.

The Salvation Army’s staple foods — which include canned meat and vegetables, dry milk and cereal — are also in short supply, the Napa Corps said in a statement. Some 10,000 people are expected to receive food aid through the Napa Corps this year, 2,000 more than in 2010.

Among the 40 or so people who lined up Friday morning at Living Vine Church — one of the Napa Food Bank’s six pantry sites — for their monthly rations was Bryon Dodds, who has been disabled for more than a decade. 

After a period of homelessness, the one-time construction worker found a Napa apartment earlier this year only to find himself struggling to cover the cost of both rent and food.

“Do they think that feeding people is wrong? The government helps feed the poor in Africa, after all,” said the 51-year-old Dodds as volunteers began loading bread, rice, milk, produce and other foods into his grocery cart. “It’s probably the reason why I don’t vote,” he said.

“I live on $800 a month for rent, electricity and food. It’s hard living without a job. I’d rather be working and helping people here than getting help,” Dodds said.

Partial relief for county food programs is expected through a special $38,000 payout from the state from a fund reserved for counties not qualifying for federal support this year. It was not yet clear what portions the Food Bank and Salvation Army would receive.

The annual Hands Across the Valley event Saturday night is also expected to help refill the coffers of local food relief efforts. Donations from the fundraiser to the Food Bank fell last year to about $25,000 from $45,000 in 2009, King said.

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