By Nina D., South Bay Pantry Volunteer
The mission of the South Bay Food Pantry is to serve nutritious food and other basics to people living with food insecurity in the community. We strive to maximize our impact through careful stewardship of donated funds and goods and volunteer hours (i.e., we shamelessly beg, borrow and steal before dipping into our savings.) The frugality and creativity of our volunteers have led to some innovative practices at the pantry, some of which also provide a bit of comic relief.
FUUSD board member and pantry coordinator Valerie Jaques showed up at 970 Broadway with a large horse in tow last year. There had been a miscommunication about her availability that day, so the two of them retrieved food from the food bank and drove it to the pantry before heading out of town for their planned ride. While Valerie’s horse was not directly pressed into service on that day (no promises about the future, Demon), myriad other items from her ranch have been: folding chairs, traffic cones, a small freezer, a manure shovel to lift up the rug from Suite 105, and the big truck she uses to haul hundreds of pounds of food from the San Diego Food Bank each week.
After learning that the pantry had been granted 300 boxes of dry goods for the October 8 distribution, we needed to find a way to transport all of those boxes from the Miramar food bank to the pantry - even Valerie’s truck couldn’t handle that much cargo. Valerie’s solution, drawing again upon her collection of useful tools at Chalice Ranch? The Pickle.
Q: When is a pickle not an article of food that has been preserved in brine or vinegar?
A: When the Pickle is a large, green, elongated, vintage ~1964 horse trailer, formerly used by the nonprofit Challenge Ranch horsemanship program of El Cajon.
Valerie and fellow intrepid volunteers Nancy, Rosa, Rebecca and Manny loaded the Pickle with the 300 boxes at the food bank, and towed it to South Bay. That Saturday morning, clients were handed their boxes (some with bits of straw attached) through the side doors of the Pickle. Chula Vista Sustainability Coordinator Dave DiDonato (visiting our site for the first time) cheerfully helped bag Starbucks bakery items, Rev. Omega donned a neon safety vest and guided people safety through the busy parking lot, and Tony Bianca recorded sounds of the pantry scene on his cell phone to be shared with the FUUSD congregation in November.
The spirit of creative group effort and problem-solving at the pantry is inspired by the resilience and persistence of our clients. Many make their way to us via public transportation, and somehow manage to balance heavy loads of food on their carts or walkers back onto the bus for the ride home. People arrive on bikes pulling small trailers. Some have found ways to live in their cars after rental costs became unaffordable. Others are placed in local hotels by housing authorities but lack access to a proper kitchen. One woman comes to the pantry using her wheeled suitcase to carry the food home, accompanied by her cherished mother-and-son chihuahuas.
As pantry clients spend significant time waiting in the parking lot, we have been thinking about ways to make that time more productive. Last week, volunteers Brian and Jinny arranged for the League of Women Voters to staff a voter information and registration table in the lot during distribution, which was well received. With numbers of Covid cases expected to resurge in the colder months ahead, we are currently attempting to arrange for a mobile Covid Vaccine van to come to the site.
We are always in need of volunteers of all ages and abilities, for tasks on site and off, weekends and weekdays. Please contact Deirdre Lonergan for more information.
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