Food Bank

Workers Jessie Piccolotti and Darcie Owen sort through cans at the Elk Grove Food Bank on March 19. 

The Elk Grove Food Bank Services staff announced on March 18 they are seeking $100,000 in assistance from the city of Elk Grove.

Every month, this nonprofit serves nearly 6,000 people who are hungry, food insecure, or need support services.

The food bank now needs more help during Sacramento County’s novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. County public health officials called upon all county residents to stay home in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This measure has caused a sharp increase in families that applied for food assistance. Meanwhile, the food bank’s supplies are diminishing.

Marie Jachino, executive director of the food bank, said that the food bank has reached a critical point that requires immediate assistance.

“We have a 15-day food supply right now,” she said. “The shelves are bare. Our major concern is we’re not going to be able to serve the clients that we currently have, which is almost 6,000 a month. (With many more families seeking assistance), right now we can’t even foresee being able to keep up with the demand.”

With this critical situation, the food bank is in need of emergency financial assistance, Jachino said.

“We estimate financial funding for the next 15 weeks through June 30, just for food supplies will be $90,000,” she said. “We included an additional $10,000 for a total of $100,000. This is a very conservative estimate of costs that take into account the increase in clients, as well as the reduction of food donations.”

The food bank, which weekly distributes about $6,000 in groceries, has experienced a significant drop in grocery store and monetary donations. The grocery store donations began declining about two weeks ago, Jachino noted.

“As the (coronovirus situation) was originally announced, people were already starting to stock up (at grocery stores) and take everything off the shelves,” she said. “Now, of course, there’s nothing in the stores. And so, we’re really being impacted by that (lack of groceries).”

In a three-day period last week, about 50 families signed up for food assistance at the food bank. On a daily basis, the food bank has experienced about a 50% increase in food requests.

Indicative of the food bank’s situation, Jachino mentioned, is the amount of people who visited the food bank during a 30-minute period on March 19.

“We sometimes don’t see that many (people) in one day and in 30 minutes, we were seeing 22 households here,” she said.

Jachino added that among the food bank’s struggles is its loss of many senior volunteers who have opted to stay home in fear of getting infected with the coronavirus. Elderly people, particularly those with ongoing medical issues, are considered to be vulnerable to COVID-19 complications.

“We just lost 40 volunteers this week who are all senior aged,” Jachino said. “They have said that they really have to stay away right now, and that’s why we are recruiting volunteers to replace them temporarily.”

She mentioned that the food bank was already seeking about 10 additional volunteers prior to this pandemic.

As a result of its major deficiency in volunteer labor, the executive director noted that she is interested in gaining 50 more people who would like to contribute their time to volunteering at the food bank.

Mark Jansson, a longtime supporter of the food bank, encouraged students who are currently being held out of school due to the coronavirus situation, to consider volunteering at the food bank.

“Right now schools are closed,” he said. “You have a significant population of young men and young women that are in that junior, senior high school category, including colleges. This is a great opportunity for them – because most of them don’t have jobs – to come down and work and volunteer.”

While the food bank seeks additional funding, the Rotary Club of Laguna Sunrise has set up a GoFundMe page, with all proceeds going to the Elk Grove Food Bank. Contributions through that page have resulted in more than $9,000 for the food bank.

With ongoing efforts to protect people from the spreading of coronavirus, the food bank is considering changing the way it distributes food at its warehouse, Jachino noted.

“Right now, we’re thinking about having the clients that come here to the food bank do a drive-thru, so they’re not in our intake window area,” she said. “(Currently), we’re only allowing two to three people in at one time, and we’re keeping the (recommended social distancing) 6 feet distance (between people).”

She added that all of the food bank’s staff and volunteers are wearing gloves and surfaces are consistently being sanitized.

Readers who want to contribute to the food bank, can visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/support-elk-grove-senior-shutin-during-covid19