By Maureen McNair.
Early food preparation last Friday for our Saturday food distribution went smoothly. Jared Blackwell, Kate Collier, Steve Gelb, Steve Howard, Andrea Travers, and I carried 3,350 pounds of food into the pantry and securely stored it. We even arranged the cantaloupes, potatoes, and apples in such a way that Saturday morning, we could create an easy assembly line to put the produce into bags. We worked hard, said our goodbyes, and went home. Then, my phone rang. It was a friend who operates a food pantry in San Ysidro. She was delivered 48 extra USDA boxes of perishable food, including eggs, cheese, meat, and a full gallon of milk. In total, it was nearly 1,600 pounds of food she could not distribute or store. “Can you take it?” She asked.
I have been in a similar situation before, so it pained me to tell her that we did not have that amount of refrigeration. But, I could help her. This is what the people who run pantries do for each other. I called the other food distributors I knew who had trucks because our solid trucking volunteers, Dana and Loren Tomlinson were away for the weekend. We picked up 1,600 pounds of unordered food in San Ysidro, took it to Barrio Logan, and gave it away. Friday was a harbinger of things to come for our pantry on Saturday. I had ordered 150 boxes of food from the program USDA established for the 6 weeks leading up to the election. They were supposed to be delivered in a refrigerated truck at 10 AM, giving pantry volunteers an hour to unload them before our food distribution began at 11 AM.
When I arrived at the pantry at 8:15 AM, an unrefrigerated delivery truck was already in our parking lot and the driver was unloading the boxes. I had no volunteers on site yet.
Enter Leo Casas, the property manager for our strip mall. Leo had been at the strip mall earlier, saw the delivery truck, and went home to get his neon lime green safety vest. He said the one I gave him last week was too small and ﬁt him “like a bra.” We needed good humor this early in the morning. Leo asked some some pantry clients who were already standing in line to help unload what turned out to be about 5,000 pounds of perishable food. I threw our freezer blankets over the pallets of boxes. Thanks to your generosity, the pantry owns several special blankets that keep food temperature stable within 1 degree every hour.
But, of course, the delivery was so huge, we did not have enough freezer blankets on hand. It was my turn to ask our neighboring food distributors if they had any freezer blankets we could borrow. Of course, someone did, and delivered them to us too!
Leo stayed on to help during the food distribution. He was absolutely wonderful directing traﬃc in the parking lot. He told people to stop honking their horns. He hollered, “Andale” to people who double parked.
We distributed about 9,000 pounds of food last Saturday to a record 164 heads of household! Thank to your continued generosity, we provided fresh, healthy food for several meals for hundreds of people. We are setting down important roots in this Chula Vista neighborhood. I know our pantry clients are grateful for our continued presence too.
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