by Valerie Jaques, Pantry Coordinator
I started with the pantry about 2 years ago, when Tony Bianca shared on Facebook a plea for someone with a truck to help with a weekly large shopping trip at the San Diego Food Bank. I said, sure, why not, at least for a few months I should be able to handle it. I’m one of very few members of First Church who happens to own a large pickup truck. Might as well make use of it to help my community. Somehow, I am now the Pantry Coordinator.
The road here has been winding and my life has been enriched with the experiences and knowledge I have gained over the intervening time. The pantry has grown from the small corner of suite 101 Maureen McNair started with in 2019, to its own suite in 105 (right next to the South Bay worship space) plus what we use in 101. We started with serving just a few families, to now serving 270 per week, on average. We also distribute diapers and period products on Sundays.
It's a big operation. Something is happening every day of the week.
We humans have a very unusual relationship with food. Food serves a unique role in our social structure. Procuring it, preparing it, sharing it. Even the cleaning up. Food behaves as a sort of social glue, something we partake of not just to nourish our bodies, but to care for one another, to come together and laugh and talk and be together. Food is an integral part of our social lives, and it serves a special role in upholding our church mission: to create community, nurture spiritual growth, and act on our values to help heal the world.
We create community through the daily participation of volunteers, who check appliance temperatures, bag food, bring in diaper deliveries, and pick up food rescue from our grocery store partners. On Saturdays, a group of dedicated community volunteers shows up early, ready to help prepare the food delivered by Feeding San Diego in time for distribution. Alongside the pantry’s core volunteers, they bag thousands of pounds of produce and Starbucks goodies, cleaning bins and stacking pallets. They help move dry goods which will not be distributed that day into the pantry. And they laugh, and sing, and joke, and enjoy one another’s presence while they do it. Just yesterday, one of our community volunteers told me how she will spend the days until next Saturday, in eager anticipation of being with her pantry community. Truly, we have and continue to create community.
We nurture spiritual growth by listening to one another, hearing the concerns of our clients, and acting to find ways to alleviate the many reasons our clients are there in the first place. We strive to help clients in any way we can, offering any help we may be able to wrangle.
We act on our values to help heal the world (and perhaps this one is the most obvious) by providing food and other items to the community, doing what we can in our small corner of the world, to fulfill a need.
All of this with food.
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