By Maureen McNair
Last Saturday, the pantry held its largest food distribution to date. We gave away over 8,000 pounds of nutritious food. We distributed a variety of kinds of fresh produce, milk, yogurt, cheese, meat, poultry, shelf stable food such as cereal and pasta, and about 500 pounds of food donated by Starbucks. We also had the largest number of people come to the pantry for food. The prior week, we distributed food for over 150 heads of household, providing food for about 600 people. Last Saturday, we provided food for over 190 heads of household, providing food for about 800 people. Our pantry guests repeatedly express how thankful they are that we have this food distribution. One woman told me about her family emergency and how important we are to her. I want to pass on the gratitude I hear about to you. I am not completely sure why we saw such a huge increase in one week. But, I have a couple educated guesses.
First, the people who operate other pantries tell me that pantry use does increase around the winter holidays. This is our pantry’s ﬁrst winter holiday season, so we are learning about what increased seasonal needs look like for us.
Second, the dramatic increase in more people might be because people have lost their jobs. The State and county recently closed down more businesses because of the pandemic. When people do not have jobs, they need emergency food. One pantry manager I know told me her food distribution saw 165 new clients the day after the government’s latest business closure order went into place.
The food banks are also reporting dramatically increased need.
Our pantry is in a good position to continue to distribute at least 2-3 tons of food every Saturday until the end of the year. We will probably be able to distribute even more pounds. But, the food distribution system is still hit and miss. More often than not, I do not know what food we will have on any given Saturday until I see it during pick up or delivery. So I am not positive we will be able to source even more food on any given week before the end of the year. But, even if we give our community 2-3 tons of food in one day, that is still a huge beneﬁt for the families we serve.
One of the obstacles facing everyone, however, comes January 1. The federal CARES Act (the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act) provides funding to the food banks from which food pantries like ours get food. The CARES Act expires at the end of the year. Congress has not renewed it yet. So, right now, the food banks do not know how much food they will have to distribute to pantries come January 1. Please call your representatives and ask them to renew the CARES Act!
And, as always, thank you for your continued interest in and support of our South Bay Food Pantry.
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