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Outreach program provides food for both mind and body
Madison Schober, 3, holds one of the books that she brought home from the Food Pantry at St. Pauls. In the back at left is her mother, Diana, with food pantry volunteers Ann Petersen, center, and Kelly Bergman. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

Patty DeRoos knows the statistics by heart. In her more than 30 years as a school teacher in the Manteca Unified School District, she saw the statistics in the flesh.

They are the literacy figures shown below:

•61 percent of low income families have no books in their home

•43 percent of adults with strong literacy skills live in poverty.

•55 percent of children have an increased interest in reading when given books at an early age.

•There is only 1 age-appropriate book for every 300 children in low-income neighborhoods, compared to 13 books in middle-class neighborhoods.

It is for these reasons the outreach program, St. Paul’s Food Pantry, has not just a lending mini-library but a giveaway bookshelf where clients, both young and adults, can browse through the titles and then take home one or two or more of those. They can then add the books to the bags of food that they take home.

One of the very young visitors who took advantage of this generous offer during Friday’s weekly food giveaway was three-year-old Madison Schober. The curly-haired girl with smiling big round eyes gravitated toward the shelves of books in the intake room for the Food Pantry at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Manteca. She browsed through the books as her mother, Diana, was interviewed by a pair of program volunteers.

After piling up about six children’s books next to the chair where her mother sat, she found an illustrated copy of “The Gift of the Magi” which she happily hugged.

“She loves books!” her mother said.

Of course, she does not know how to read yet, “but she likes to look at the pictures,” Diana explained.

Madison did not just get books for herself on Friday. She also picked some books for her older siblings.

“They can take home as many books as they want,” said volunteer Ann Peterson.

All the books are donated, said DeRoos who invited anyone with books to spare to send these to the St. Paul’s Food Pantry outreach program.