SALINAS VALLEY — Sheltering in place coincides with less frequent trips to the grocery store, but for a growing number of people, it also means job loss and an increasing inability to purchase food in the first place.
Food distribution has always happened in South Monterey County, but it is changing in the era of coronavirus.
King City had two organizations that rotated service, Loaves and Fishes usually operated from November through April, while Community Food Pantry of King City operated from April through November. With the increased risk to the public and distribution workers, Loaves and Fishes announced it would not open as planned on April 10.
In order to help area families, Loaves and Fishes handed out three bags of food rather than one per family during its last day on March 27. Extending its program was considered, but the larger scope of food shortages in the county prevented that.
“We have money in our budget to buy the food from the Food Bank in Salinas,” said Sharon Hornlein, who oversees the Loaves and Fishes program in King City.
Hornlein said the location would have had to shift away from the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds, but other problems popped up while looking at a shift in plans.
“Because they’re using all their food at the distribution centers, I wasn’t able to buy food,” Hornlein said. “A lot of food is going to the schools.”
She added the decrease in food bank availability meant Loaves and Fishes needed to shut down one week earlier than planned on April 3.
Groups like Loaves and Fishes served families, while school handouts serve local students. Area food groups, however, have begun coordinating, including with schools, to make sure food reaches more people.
“We have the money to buy it and we certainly would,” Hornlein said, referring to the desire to continue food service. The problem, she noted, is the current strain on the food bank system. “Even if you could buy the food from Safeway, it would be very costly.”
Hornlein explained food bank prices are much more accommodating to the budgets of charities.
Location of distribution has also undergone examination. For example, Loaves and Fishes operated out of an east building on the Salinas Valley Fairgrounds property, which is near the animal pens used by 4-H and FFA exhibitors. A long line waiting for food plus the youth exhibitors would mean too many people in one spot for social distancing guidelines.
Hornlein said the food bank has begun distributing food to families during the school lunch and breakfast pickups at King City elementary schools on Thursdays.
In King City, the Food Bank for Monterey County holds a distribution at the fairgrounds parking lot on the second Wednesday of every month, including tomorrow, April 8, from 10 to 11 a.m. The distribution is open to anyone in need of food.
The Salvation Army also delivers food bags to seniors on Fridays in King City. Seniors who need food assistance can call 310-753-6520 to schedule delivery.
Elsewhere in Salinas Valley, a food distribution takes place every Saturday in Gonzales, with a drive-through service at Gonzales Community Presbyterian Church from 10 to 11 a.m. There are no forms to fill out or questions asked, with the expectation that those who show up do need the food. The location of the church’s Food Pantry is Community Church Education Building at Fourth and Day streets.
The pantry has been working with Santa Fe Foods to purchase extra food to meet the needs of residents. Taylor Farms and the Gonzales Lion’s Club have also supported the church’s food pantry program. In addition, the pantry has asked residents with fruit trees to donate excess fruit to the front porch of the pantry in a box or bag, as fresh fruit is appreciated.
The Food Bank of Monterey County has begun delivering food to schools in Greenfield for distribution to families. Their program takes place on Mondays at Arroyo Seco Academy, Cesar Chavez Elementary School and Oak Avenue Elementary School. On Wednesdays, they also hand out food at Mary Chapa Academy and Vista Verde Middle School.
These food bank operations coincide with the lunch and breakfast pickups at the school sites, but are an opportunity for the entire family to get food. The food bank deliveries will also take place during the upcoming Spring Break in Greenfield.
Additional food pantry locations include the Soledad Salvation Army on Mondays through Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., San Lucas School on Mondays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., San Antonio School in Lockwood on Mondays through Fridays from 8 to 9 a.m., and Bradley Post Office on Mondays through Fridays from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.