The COVID-19 pandemic and the state’s stay-at-home restrictions on local businesses took a toll on many in the Elk Grove community throughout 2020. Marie Jachino, the executive director of Elk Grove Food Bank Services, said that many new clients requested food assistance for the first time in their lives.
“Those who are unemployed and just people who are really struggling – a lot of the small business and service workers,” she said about some of her nonprofit’s clients.
In the food bank’s Christmas newsletter, Jachino announced that her staff signed up 2,150 new households, which added up to 7,065 new clients, in 2020.
While demand for help continues to rise, the food bank staff sees a bright future in the new year. This March, they are planning to break ground for the food bank’s future home at 9888 Kent St. This site is close to the food bank’s current location at Dino Drive. Jachino said that plans are to open the new facility in October.
This complex includes a 4,300-square-foot office building that’s currently used by Robertson Bryan Inc., an environmental engineering firm. The food bank plans to build a 9,900-square-foot warehouse and a 600-square-foot cold storage unit in an empty lot behind the office building.
Also in the works will be renovations to the parking lot that will create two entrances to the warehouse.
“It’s almost impossible to believe we own this,” Jachino said as she walked through the closed office on Dec. 18.
She showed the building’s numerous office spaces and large conference room, which stand in stark contrast to the food bank’s Dino Drive site that has a small, crowded office.
“We are so cramped right now, you can’t even walk on our floor,” Jachino about the office that was filled with Christmas presents that were donated to local seniors.
The food bank is using a $4 million state grant to fund the Kent Street facility project. Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, last year secured the grant for the nonprofit. The food bank was given a late 2021 deadline to spend the grant or forfeit the funding. After a year of searching for new sites in Elk Grove, the nonprofit purchased the Kent Street location last October.
“It’s been an interesting journey,” Jachino said. “I can’t tell you how many times I got turned away.”
She said that she still vividly recalled Cooper’s phone call to her about the grant at precisely 3:30 p.m. on June 4, 2019. Food Bank Board Member Mark Jansson joked that it took his colleagues 20 minutes to revive her after she heard the news about the state grant.
“For two weeks, I cried every time I talked about it,” Jachino recalled.
She said that her staff plans to name a room after Cooper at their future home.
The Elk Grove food bank turns 47 this year and it originated at the basement of the Elk Grove United Methodist Church in Old Town. This nonprofit later moved to a trailer behind the Cosumnes Community Services District headquarters at Elk Grove Boulevard. They moved into their present location at Dino Drive in 2009.
Becky Eakle, the food bank’s accountant of 14 years, said that have come a long way from their humble beginnings.
“We’ve gone from trunks of cares and a utility trailer to this,” she said.
After the tour of the Kent Street location, Elk Grove Mayor Bobbie Singh-Allen visited Jachino to present her a $1,200 check for her organization. The new mayor knew her when she served on the food bank’s board. She said that the donation came from her personal funds and her old trustee account from the Elk Grove Unified School District board.
“I wanted to make sure they have continued support during COVID – we have so many more families in need and I’m just doing my small part to help,” Singh-Allen said. “(The future food bank) was a part of our dream; we’ve always talked about having a home.”