SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – Housing agencies and food banks say demand for their services is growing. More Sacramento-area families say they need help, and some for the first time ever.

Outside the River City Food Bank, the line to pick up turkeys and all the trimmings took up one and a half city blocks.

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It’s the busiest time of year, and hundreds were first-timers. They’ve never needed help, until now.

“Families are making the impossible choices: Do I buy food or do I pay my utilities or childcare?” said Amanda McCarthy, the executive director at River City Food Bank.

She says there’s been a 30% annual increase in people experiencing food insecurity and hunger in Sacramento County. That means at River City Food Bank’s two locations, it serves about five thousand people every week.

And almost every food bank across the region is seeing an increase in need.

“Food insecurity and hunger among our neighbors in Sacramento County has never been higher,” McCarthy said.

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Dozens of volunteers handed out more than 400 turkeys. This week already they’ve helped to feed more than one thousand families ahead of the holidays.

“After COVID and everything, it’s still kind of hard to make ends meet,” Yolanda Lowe said.

Lowe is one of those seeking help for the first time. She was there picking up Thanksgiving dinner for her three kids — a meal she says she wouldn’t be able to provide without programs like this.

“It’s cost of living in general, food and clothing for the kids, gas, medical, all in one,” she said.

Lowe says she’s been homeless before and has no plans for her family to go back. So she waited in the long line, grateful for a steady job and access to this healthy food.

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And it’s not just food banks, CBS13 has learned thousands more in Sacramento County are applying for housing vouchers.

Marissa Perlman