For remote ranching families, mobile food bank provides staples

12/04/2019

For ranching families and workers on the Point Reyes peninsula, getting to the grocery store can be a challenge—so the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank's mobile food pantry brings food to their doorsteps. Every two weeks, volunteers travel over 100 miles to drop food off at 27 households. “Ranching life is very difficult—it takes a special type of person to be able to live and do the work,” said Edith Cadena, the program coordinator. “We try to provide a well-rounded, balanced menu for the families that are living out there.” The mobile pantry’s primary service is handing out fresh fruits and vegetables. Farms in California donate cosmetically challenged produce to the food bank, which sends it along with a grain item—pasta, rice, cereal or tortillas—and a protein item, usually a rotation of chicken and eggs. “We try to add as much variety as we can, but it is based on donation,” Ms. Cadena said. Deliveries stack up to 20 to 40 pounds of food, depending on what is available. Ms. Cadena said she became interested in starting a mobile pantry in 2016 while meeting with service providers in West Marin; ranching families can travel nearly an hour to get to the Palace Market and much farther to other groceries. Getting to the West Marin Community Services’ weekday food bank can be difficult for dairy farmers with constant responsibilities, Ms. Cadena said. It seemed appropriate to her to create a direct service program. At the time she was getting the program off the ground, political tensions were high around immigration issues, and Latino families were reluctant to participate. By attending community events, such as the Day of the Dead celebration and back-to-school nights, she was able to connect with families and tell them that income verification was not required, and their information would be kept private. “It’s open for anyone who is willing to say they are in need for food,” she said. On Aug. 30, 2017, Ms. Cadena made the first delivery while she looked for reliable volunteers to take over. “It took us a long time to build a trusting relationship with our participants, so we wanted to provide consistency with those faces,” she said. After 10 months of employees delivering, the food bank was able to organize a good crew of volunteer drivers, who have been delivering ever since. Jeff Schoppert, a retired lawyer, is one of them. “The first ride out there, it was so foggy you could see neither the ocean nor the estero,” he said. “It’s interesting to watch the changes through the seasons.” With another volunteer, Mr. Schoppert starts at the warehouse in San Rafael and drives out to homes along Sir Francis Drake Boulevard and Marshall Beach and Pierce Point Roads. He said about half of the residents are there to greet him when he drops the food off. “We exchange pleasantries,” he said. “They’re always very gracious.”