Service Projects: West Valley Food Pantry
By Meredith Graham
As most Emersonians know, the West Valley Food Pantry has been a social action project of ours for many years—decades, actually. We collect food weekly and participate in annual Postal Service food drives as well as special drives of our own.
We used to participate in the monthly grocery store collections. Currently, we have church members on the Board of the Pantry, and we are a Sponsoring Member Church. We are the second largest donor church to the Pantry. There is a reprint of a Pantry newsletter article, written by Al Trumpler, current Pantry Treasurer, on the table in the Pavilion detailing his recollections of our history. Our history is extensive, indeed.
What does the Pantry do with our donations of food and money, anyway? Much more than you would think. The Pantry serves an average of 3,200 clients monthly, all residents of the West San Fernando Valley. Even the homeless! Families of up to four can pick up three bags of food per month, including fresh meat, fruits and veggies, courtesy of Trader Joe’s and the garden at Prince of Peace Episcopal Church. Thanks to a generous donation by a member of POP, plus donation of an irrigation system from Rotary International, the garden has “grown” by more than 100% in square footage since groundbreaking.
The homeless who have a place to cook can pick up food once a month. If they’re unable to cook, they can pick up food weekly. The appeal in last month’s eBlast for canned tuna and can openers was geared not only for those homeless clients, but for all, since protein is the most expensive item the Pantry has to buy. Also on the table in the Pavilion is a list of what goes into the typical family food order, not including the fresh items. The cost of that order is $46.00. Currently, the Pantry has to use $10.00 to purchase items to complete those orders.
What’s new at the Pantry? So much—and it’s so exciting! Through a partnership with Seeds of Hope, 150 fruit trees were donated and planted on the grounds of POP. Soon there will be a pruning and tree care workshop, which will get the trees ready to produce this season. Another new partnership with Food Forward allows the Pantry to glean leftovers from the Calabasas Farmer’s Market, and Seeds of Hope helps out by transporting the produce with their truck. POP has graciously given permission for the Pantry to erect a storage shed for that precious resource. And Jean Buesing recently secured grant funding for a third storage pod for canned and packaged foods. Whew!
Given how cool and happening things are over there, one would think they don’t need much from us, right? Heck, no! Thanks to Leslie Reuter’s eBlast article last month, we know they need canned tuna and cheap can openers. Let’s be strategic and help reduce the amount of donor dollars they’re spending to make those client orders complete! Enough with the pasta. Bring in more canned tuna, canned chicken, peanut butter, brown rice and canned or dry beans. Also low-sodium soups, pop-top foods, Ensure, and socks. Yes, one-third of the Pantry’s clients are seniors with special dietary needs, and the homeless clients always need clean socks. Try affording the laundromat when you can’t afford to eat!
What else? Volunteer to maintain the garden; it’s always open for anyone who wants to get their hands dirty. Go to the tree workshop and get those little trees ready to rock and roll. Volunteer during the week to put the food orders together or to hand them out to the clients. If you don’t want to bring a food donation to church weekly, bring a check instead; it will be put to good use. Or commit to becoming a monthly pledging donor to the Pantry. Al Trumpler will be the first to tell you that being able to count on a steady income is as much a blessing for the Pantry as it is for the rest of us. And keep your ears open: the big Post Office food drive will be here in May, which is just around the corner. Oodles of volunteers will be needed that day, as the trucks will roll in and the Boy Scouts of Troop 22 will happily welcome additional sorters in the parking lot of Prince of Peace. Read the Pantry Newsletter, now to be posted on our bulletin board, to keep up with the latest stuff. We have a vested interest; let’s make our social actions strategic and effective!