By Anna Pier
On a late May evening, grassroots volunteers for Food for All/Comida para Todos gathered — outdoors, of course — to go over their delivery driving lists and talk about their week. The energy of the group was palpable, and so was the pride in what they are doing.
Their community spirit and solidarity is embodied in their tee shirts, designed and donated by organizer D’Mitra Smith.
But it is a challenging undertaking. They encouraged each other. “Stay strong and centered, so people’s difficulties don’t drag you in.” One volunteer mentioned that once involved, “you see and hear things that can make you doubt what you’re doing, especially when the need is so much greater than the resources.”
Araceli de Jesús, single mother of a Flowery student, is a volunteer driver because she “worried about the people who either can’t drive, don’t have a car, or are afraid of showing up” at a distribution site. She is glad she can help them, especially her senior neighbors whom she graciously refers to as “people of the third age” – “la tercera edad.”
They talked about some of the challenges in this time of acute economic crisis in their community. The latest one has to do with how to access Gov. Newsom’s stimulus payment for those who do not qualify for federal programs. The group spoke of many who tried all day long and were not able to get through to apply for the money on the sole phone number provided.
Jerónima Bataz remarked that people lose hope. They become frustrated when they can’t access help that is offered. Mother of three, she is a longtime community volunteer who wants to help with driving foods and supplies to people because she believes “we are all equal and all have the right to what we need.”
The Food for All/Comida para Todos grassroots project began filling a community need by delivering boxes from Redwood Empire Food Bank to people who couldn’t access that weekly food distribution because of the rule that you must come by car.
Ana Ríos checks her phone for the location of her next home delivery.
A Food for All/Comida para Todos “basket” of essentials, items that do not come in the food bank box. Ríos, mother of three, says it’s “a gratifying undertaking, being able to support people by bringing them things they need,” but she adds that it is daunting to “connect with people and realize you’re not going to be able to give them all the help they need.”
Many of the volunteers were on the ground working at food banks, and realized how people were getting shut out by the drive-up rule, which was exacerbated when the distribution site was changed. Growing the project for several months, the volunteers are now delivering 90 boxes every Friday, the maximum the Food Bank allots for delivery. Their dedication helps over 500 individuals have enough to eat.
The Food for All/Comida para Todos’ independent project of customized “baskets” is the creative response to the many other needs that volunteers learned about as they made those food bank deliveries. Every other Sunday, with the support of a team of organizers, they put together and deliver baskets of necessities. Desperately needed items include diapers, coffee, flour, sugar, masa for tortillas, cooking oil, rice, beans, eggs, detergent, masks and toilet paper. The “baskets” are personalized, filled-to-order, and coordinated by the organizers.
The supplies are provided through donations and contributions.
First posted on June 15, 2020