Congressman Josh Harder got a firsthand look Monday at the operation that supplies almost every food bank in the 10th District and throughout the Northern San Joaquin Valley and southern Mother Lode.
Harder met with staff and volunteers with various regional efforts to help feed struggling families during a tour of the Second Harvest Food Bank in the Manteca Industrial Park. Among the topics discussed was the impact the federal government shutdown on the region and how cuts to the CalFresh budget would impact the service areas of the Second Harvest Food Bank.
Harder and his District Director Karen Warner met with Second Harvest staffers including CEO Paul Rodriguez, director of operations Rudy Valencia, and Jessica Vaughan along with two members of the California Association of Food Banks from Oakland, and Melissa Cannon who is a California Food Bank advocate.
Also, on hand was Kimberly Smith, representing the San Joaquin Public Health Services, who said their main focus is that of women, infants and children. Catholic Charities Director Linda Ramirez was also in attendance.
Rodrigues and warehouse foreman Matt Aguirre led a tour of the food storage in their large warehouse with Aguirre explaining the daily distribution schedule to regional food banks.
“Even with the great work you are all doing here, we are not addressing the total need in the communities,” Harder noted.
Manteca resident Nola Desera, invited as a guest to share her personal story, said she volunteers at every Mobile Fresh event so that she can also be there to take free groceries home. She said once a week is just not enough to feed her family given she is out of work and in need of an office job. She noted that since the federal shut down the normal lines of 150 needy people have grown to about 300 filling their bags to the brim.
She added that when the trailer comes to her church, the line of people has grown to about 500 in need of food.
Valencia added that at the end of the month the numbers of hungry families looking for food “skyrockets” creating a constant need for greater supplies and a larger force of volunteers – all that demands greater financial support.
“We’re seeing more families – we are seeing more veterans and we are seeing senior citizens coming to us for support – all beneficiaries of CalFresh,” Vaughan added.
Harder noted the “challenges” involve finding common ground in feeding the hungry in the next two years, hoping to set a clear standard and needing to see the “face of hunger” close up through the personal stories of suffering citizens.
Linda Ramirez of Catholic Charities said helping feed the hungry “is a moral and right thing to do for our citizens and our country.”
“It’s about the needs of the people – not about Republicans or Democrats,” Rodrigues added referring about the need for more support for food banks from the federal government. “We need more food and we need to be able to take care of staffing issues.”
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