by Maureen McNair
Did you know that almost every Saturday, the food pantry volunteers give our clients about 400 - 500 pounds of food we receive from Starbucks?
We give away wraps, paninis, muffins, salads, yogurt, desserts, and any other kind of food Starbucks sells. Our clients love receiving this food. And, we like giving it to them so the heads of household who have stood in a long line can go home and feed their families right away without having to do food preparation.
We have come about receiving the donations from Starbucks in quite a circuitous way.
Back in early 2020, I met a volunteer from the food pantry at South Bay Pentacostal who picked up donations from Starbucks every week. He shared those donations with other pantries, including our pantry. Fairly soon after we met, he stopped delivering the bins full of food. He wanted our volunteers to pick up the big bins from the parking lot at his church. This was a weekly challenge because our pantry has never owned a pick up truck. But, we could easily distribute over 20 bins of Starbucks food in under 90 minutes. Of course, we also had to find a way to return the empty bins to him.
Eventually, I learned that the volunteer from South Bay Pentacostal did not pick up Starbucks food from individual stores. He picked up the Starbucks food from the Sorento Valley warehouses of Feeding San Diego. It turns out Feeding San Diego is the county hub for collecting donations from Starbucks retailers throughout the county. And, it turns out, South Bay Pentacostal did not have an agreement with Feeding San Diego to pick up the Starbucks donations. The volunteer from the Pentacostal Church was making the long drive on behalf of a different primary pantry!
With such a complicated structure, trouble shooting about pick up times and delivery locations or getting information on a Saturday when there was no donation was just weekly chaos. There were definitely times when well-meaning people gave me the unsolicited advice to delegate more pantry work. I had no idea how to delegate this amount of chaos.
Then, the confusion worsened.
The volunteer from the Pentacostal Church contracted a very severe case of Covid-19. He was sick for months. The Chula Vista pantry managers all scrambled around to keep this donation coming into our pantries every week.
It was just madness.
Fortunately, the volunteer from the Pentacostal Church recovered, but he when he tried to return to pantry work, he was too weak to continue.
Then, a couple wonderful things happened. The primary pantry with the agreement to pick up Starbucks donations from the Feeding San Diego warehouse decided to give up distributing Starbucks food altogether. And, our pantry had been so friendly and cooperative and reliable with our contacts at Feeding San Diego, their Regional Coordinator told me just a few weeks ago our pantry was invited to pick up donations from Starbucks directly from the Feeding San Diego warehouse in Sorrento Valley.
Feeding San Diego has never reopened its warehouse for pantry volunteers to shop at since they closed their warehouse in March 2020. So, receiving an invitation to pick up Starbucks food directly is still a really big deal.
Our pantry is allowed two designated volunteers. They had to provide photos of their drivers licenses to the Regional Coordinator. They are the only two volunteers from our pantry who are allowed on the Feeding San Diego property. The two volunteers who do this run for us every Saturday are not church members. They are personal friends who own a pick up truck and volunteer for our pantry every Saturday.
Even more good news is their pick up truck has a long bed. So, now, they pick up over 30 bins of Starbucks food every Saturday morning.
It has been a long road. But our pantry is in such a good place with receiving Starbucks donations now. Now, this part of pantry life is easy. And, our pantry clients never knew what we were going through when our volunteers smiled and handed them their bags of food.
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