On March 19, the South Bay Food Pantry operated for the first time from Suite 105 at 970 Broadway in Chula Vista. What a day it was!
Any move involves a period of disruption and confusion, and the pantry’s move has been no exception. Yet, with nearly 300 households relying upon the pantry for food each week, it was crucial that we carry on with the weekly Saturday distribution despite being mid-transition. Intensive pre-move and mid-move planning helped us organize food, freezers, diapers, period products, cleaning supplies, heavy duty shelving and tables for bagging bread and dry goods in the new space. Valerie Jaques has devoted many hours to addressing requirements for opening such as installation of a hot water heater and organizing volunteers to perform other upgrades to Suite 105. The new space had to be inspected by Feeding San Diego and the San Diego Food Bank and we had to adapt the flow of distribution to our new footprint before we could open. The work of our dedicated mid-week food rescuers, food bank truck runners and dry goods baggers and bread donation retriever/baggers was also complicated by the move. New food rescue volunteers Gay and Eric Hybertson arrived at the pantry one evening with the Con Pane bread donation, only to find their key didn’t work to open the new suite door! Luckily, they were able to reach another volunteer who coached them on how to get in.
As much as we plan, unpredictable factors make every Saturday distribution uniquely challenging. Opening day of the new pantry was especially complicated. Kudos to Sophia Lopez -Zimmer, son Andres and other early-morning volunteers Jack, Elaine, Anna and Christina for adeptly managing one challenge after another. To name a few of the issues they resolved: the early morning Feeding San Diego truck brought unusually abundant produce requiring extensive bagging and staging by 11am. The truck also delivered a large donation of Starbucks bakery items, also to be sorted into 250 bags. Mountain-high cases of canned food were moved from the sidewalk by Jeff and Andres and others into Suite 105, while volunteers Brian and others rushed in and out completing other pressing tasks, and Rhea, Elaine and my dear sister-in-law Helen prepared protein items for distribution. We could not have managed without our wonderful team of client volunteers, who have stepped up to contribute their own labor each week. Behind-the-scenes pantry heroes who went above and beyond during our recent transition include Adrienne Kaplan, Sue Marberry and Maureen McNair.
The start of distribution at 11am is like the start of a marathon. From one moment to the next, all is in motion. On this Saturday, Kate Collier calmly conducted intake, greeting and processing each household with warmth and efficiency. Meat is highly valued by many of our guests, but recently we have encountered shortages at the food bank. Rhea and Armin aptly managed the complexities of distributing multiple alternative protein foods: plant-based patties, frozen meals and cans of beef stew. Sara, Brian and Jeff distributed bag after bag of dry goods and milk, and Laura staffed the busy and popular bread distribution table.
From 11am through 12:30pm on Saturdays, the parking lot is filled with hundreds of pantry guests. Special appreciation goes to Reverend Kathleen McTigue, who took on the role of managing the line of pantry guests in recent weeks. Her good humor, excellent Spanish and respectful attunement to the guests has been a wonderful contribution to our efforts, and she will be missed by volunteers and guests alike when she returns to Boston.
At the close of Suite 105’s opening distribution day, volunteers reflected with satisfaction upon the collective achievements of the pantry since its original 2020 opening while enjoying home-prepared burritos made for us by an appreciative guest.
More work lies ahead, and new volunteers are always welcome to join us, on site or remote, Saturdays or weekdays, day or night. Please contact Deirdre for more info: email@example.com or 619-261-8484 (phone calls may not be returned until evening!).
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