By Maureen McNair
In December last year, Rev. Tania gave the go-ahead to open a food pantry at our South Bay campus. Since then, our members and friends jumped right in with their labor and donations. Today, volunteers keep the pantry open three days a week. We have already distributed thousands of pounds of food to our congregants and the wider community. We will continue to grow. The in-person pantry volunteers and donors of food and funds are the heart and soul of the food pantry. It is a testament to our congregation's deep commitment to this pantry that every single time the pantry has needed something or someone, that need has been immediately fulfilled.
There are many donors and volunteers whose names are not in this article. It is not for lack of gratitude. It is, happily, due to lack of space! Our pantry would not, and will not, exist without your sustained support. In these unusual times, I want to use this unusual opportunity when there is lots of available space in The Window to provide a glimpse into how our pantry operates.
Where does the pantry get its food?
If Covid-19 had not changed the food supply chain, our volunteers would have been picking up free and discounted produce and other goods from a local grocery store with which we have been paired by Feeding San Diego (FSD), one of the two major food rescue organizations in the county. Our ﬁrst food distribution with FSD had been scheduled in March. Now, as FSD continues to navigate their daily changes, they continue to be a weekly source of information for us.
Meanwhile, the pantry continues to get nearly all our food through your food donations and by purchasing food at retail grocery store prices.
Prior to Covid-19, we could purchase food in bulk at grocery stores. Now, the only two retail outlets that permit bulk food purchases seem to be The Dollar Store and Costco. With most stores limiting the number of items each person may purchase, the pantry heavily relies on a web of decentralized food donations from people like you who can pick up and donate that extra bag of rice or pasta.
What kind of food does the pantry distribute?
Our only goal is to distribute healthy food. Pantry storage space is very limited so we gratefully accept canned, bagged, and boxed food which we assemble into bags that compose a few meals. For instance, a typical bag might contain rice, beans, diced canned tomatoes, canned vegetables and fruit, tuna, and a jar of peanut butter.
Through Kate Webb’s magical relationship with a Facebook group, the pantry also received a donation of a used refrigerator and a used chest freezer within 30 minutes of Kate asking for them! Since Mike Dorﬁ picked up the appliances from two households not associated with the church, the pantry has also been able to store and distribute fresh produce and dozens of loaves of bread.
The best shelf stable food to donate is:
Canned tuna, chicken, fruit, vegetables, beans, chili, diced tomatoes, soup Jars of marinara sauce and peanut butter. Boxes and bags of rice, beans, mac ’n cheese, and other pasta.
Fresh produce and bread is best delivered during hours the pantry is open so we can distribute them immediately to clients. Our refrigerator and freezer are relatively small, and we must store undistributed live food in them — and not on shelves — for proper pest control.
What types of hygiene products does the pantry distribute?
We have distributed about 4,000 baby wipes. They ﬂy off our shelves.
Who are the pantry clients?
Most pantry clients are families. We do not ask for ID or any proof of income. Anyone who asks for food receives it.
The pantry reaches local households who need extra food through a variety of social service agencies in the South Bay with which we have developed relationships. A few unsheltered individuals also stop by from time to time. We provide sandwiches, canned food with pop-tops, and can openers to anyone who needs them.
All the pantry volunteers eagerly look forward to the day when we can mingle with our clients and welcome them more warmly.
Congregants are also more than welcome to use the pantry! People are finding themselves laid off from jobs. Rents, already too high, and mortgages are due. Stop by during business hours or make a private appointment to shop.
A food pantry only needs three things to stay open: food, volunteers who show up on time ready to work, and clients. We have all three. The South Bay Food Pantry is humming along because our congregation truly acts on our weekly affirmation that service is our prayer. Thank you, all!
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