Community center opens pantry to federal workers

01/23/2019

San Geronimo Valley Community Center staff, in a gesture of goodwill, have opened their food pantry to federal workers suffering from the impacts of the government shutdown. The pantry, generally open on Mondays and Thursdays to low-income residents of the valley and Nicasio and to service workers in those areas, is now open throughout the week to federal employees and their family members. Nicole Ramirez, the center’s director of human services and youth programs, said that as staff watched the national conversation about the shutdown, they decided they wanted to do something—even if the action proved largely symbolic, as no federal workers have contacted the center. “This was a group gesture,” Ms. Ramirez said. Across the country, the shutdown is impacting an estimated 800,000 government employees, many of whom will either have to dip into savings or look elsewhere for help to cover rent, utilities, food and additional expenses while they receive pay stubs for $0.0. Some will receive furloughed pay after the shutdown is over, but others, like government contractors, may not. Organizations around the Bay Area have rallied around the workers. In Marin, the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank, which supports the San Geronimo food pantry, is providing aid to U.S. Coast Guard workers and their families in Novato. “I think, more than anything, we wanted to be part of this Bay Area support team,” said Dave Cort, the community center’s executive director. The pantry has been in operation since the 80s and receives food from the United States Department of Agriculture as well as Extra Food, a nonprofit that gleans from local restaurants, catering companies and supermarkets. Over the past few decades, staff have seen the demographics of its pantry patrons shift. Young families moving into the valley tend to have larger and dual incomes—a necessity given the area’s high housing prices. Those who come now tend to be seniors, ranch workers and people in transition: those living in their cars or couch surfing.