Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove.

Assembly Member Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, on March 23 announced that he pledged $20,000 to the Elk Grove Food Bank Services.

He said that his donation is in response to the food bank’s announcement that it is seeking $100,000 in assistance to keep food on its shelves through June 30, amid increasing requests for assistance during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“I think we all knew (the food bank’s situation) was bad, but when you see that number – the increase of 263% (in clients served last week), that is insane to see it increase that much,” Cooper said. “And the need is out there. People wouldn’t be asking for help for food physically if they didn’t need it.

“There (are also) people out there that need it who are too embarrassed to ask. So, the need is even greater than that. So, whatever we can do to help our fellow human beings out, we’ve got to do it.”

On average, the food bank was weekly serving 350 persons, including families, seniors, people with disabilities, and the homeless. Last week, the food bank assisted more than 920 people due to the coronavirus situation.

Because of the food bank’s critical need for assistance, Cooper is working on issuing a check to the food bank this week, he noted.

“I’m using ($20,000 in) campaign money, and the food bank is a much better resource (for that money),” he said. “A check will be cut this week for (the donation). My goal is to have them the money by the close of business Friday at the latest.”

As for his choice of the amount of $20,000, Cooper told the Citizen that “something was better than nothing.”

“I just came up with (that figure),” he said. “The need was $100,000 and I figured that was one-fifth (of that monetary request).”

With $80,000 still being sought by the food bank, and the number of its volunteers having drastically declined, the assemblyman encouraged other people in the community to also donate to the food bank during this unprecedented time.

“I encourage my fellow Elk Grovians to get involved, to help out,” Cooper said. “If they can’t help out financially, then help out with the delivering food or preparing food for those folks that need it.

“Obviously, first and foremost, (the food bank needs) money (to buy food). But obviously, a lot of their volunteers are senior citizens themselves, and I know they’re concerned about possibly catching the COVID-19. So, that’s why their number of volunteers hours and individuals have dropped dramatically.”

The food bank has also experienced a significant drop in grocery store and monetary donations.

Marie Jachino, executive director of the food bank, expressed appreciation for Cooper’s pledge and his other assistance to the food bank. That assistance includes spearheading an effort to provide $4 million in state funding for a permanent home for the food bank.

“There really are no words to appropriately thank Assembly Member Jim Cooper for all he’s done,” Jachino said. “As I told him, he is my hero; he and his staff. I have to thank them, too.

“That ($20,000 donation) is going to provide a lot of food for those who are most severely impacted by the virus.”

In addition to his $20,000 pledge to the food bank, Cooper is working with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office and the Office of Emergency Services to ensure that the Elk Grove Food Bank will have sufficient resources to continue providing their critical services to the community.

Jachino mentioned that because of the additional demand for Elk Grove Food Bank services, the local food bank will also have its U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Assistance Program allotment increased on a weekly basis through the Sacramento Food Bank.

Stressing the Elk Grove Food Bank’s increasing needs, Jachino noted that the coronavirus pandemic has altered the food bank’s weekly spending on food from $6,000 to $8,000.

“I have to emphasize (that figure) is changing every single day, because we’re seeing more and more people come in,” she said.