Since 2009 Fresno EOC has provided Food Distributions in rural communities to low-income families in need. During COVID-19 staff continue to provide food in Cantua Creek and Parlier, both areas with few resources or opportunities for residents to get food elsewhere.
“Food Distributions are a must for us,” said Gabby Romero, Community Services Manager. Romero remembers years ago when Fresno EOC began offering food for residents in rural Fresno County after droughts and freezes impacted employment.
“Now families everywhere are struggling to get food,” said Romero. “With these events, we are reaching out to families struggling financially, who have no transportation, are fearful of immigration, or simply aren’t comfortable driving outside of their city limits.”
Distribution events are sponsored by the Central California Food Bank. In the last two weeks of March and throughout the month of April, Fresno EOC distributed food to 1,475 families. Fresno EOC was able to provide additional food and staffing support for four events thanks to a sponsorship from Saint Agnes Medical Center.
“Partnering with Fresno EOC to provide meals to some of our rural areas is a way for Saint Agnes to address the most urgent community needs as it pertains to COVID response and to pursue its mission of countering hunger and nutritional issues for families in our community,” said Ivonne Der Torosian, Saint Agnes Medical Center, Vice President of Community Health and Well-Being.
Residents receive shelf-stable items for the distributions, with items such as raisins, whole kernel corn, low-fat milk, pasta sauce, tomato sauce, spaghetti pasta, peanut butter, pinto beans, cereal, and canned pink salmon.
“It’s amazing how everyone has come together to make it possible,” said Romero. “Even with COVID-19 we’ve been serving families and keeping our relationships with rural communities solid.”
While there are intentionally fewer staff present and a pause on allowing volunteers to help, the partnerships and collaboration for distributions remain strong. In Parlier, city officials, the police department and school district come together to be part of the food distributions for residents.
“We have a lot of migrant families, working in the packing houses or the fields,” said Cynthia Sandoval, Activities Coordinator for the City of Parlier. “Fresno EOC is the only Food Distribution we have. It’s appreciated because a lot of people are out of work and have families to feed.
Sandoval has worked on distributions for the last month. With the local senior center closed, she helps deliver food from distributions to seniors who don’t have transportation or don’t have family in the area.
“Together we are guaranteeing everyone gets fed,” said Sandoval. “I’ve lived here most of my life and it’s nice to see how the community lends a hand when people are in need.”
Food Distributions would not possible without the help of our partners. In May, Fresno EOC will be expanding distribution efforts to include Fowler, Orange Cove and Del Rey. For updated information on upcoming dates, locations and procedures please visit our Food Distributions program page.
Fresno EOC is committed to following the guidance of the California Department of Public Health, the Fresno County Department of Public Health, and Central California Food Bank in response to COVID-19. Our agency is working closely with staff to follow guidelines and make adjustments to procedures, as necessary. For this reason, Food Distributions are drive-through and pick-up only. If you are able to contribute, you can donate in order to help this effort and other urgent needs in our community.
Outreach Staff Feed Thousands with the Food Express Bus
The Food Express Bus, a mobile healthy meal bus, is back on the road providing thousands of grab and go meals for children. Typically, the bus is a mobile cafeteria during summer and winter breaks but due to COVID-19 the bus is providing healthy meals for kids as the City of Fresno remains under the shelter-in-place order.
“When the schools are shut down, kids are getting their meals from places like us,” Cole Scroggins, Sanctuary Housing and Support Specialist, said. “Since the start of this pandemic the community has shown us there is a need for food and resources. I see some of the same families come back knowing Fresno EOC is going to be there for them.”
Scroggins is part of the team of outreach staff from Health and Dental, Employment and Training, Street Saints, and Sanctuary and Support Services that work with Food Services to provide additional support along with meals. In its first week open since winter break, 16,494 meals were served to kids prepared by Food Services. This is the first time the bus has fed thousands of kids in one week.
“I feel fortunate as an employee that I was given this option to work during this time and give back to the community,” Scroggins said. “It’s really great we are able to do this. When some organizations have had to shut down, we are still able to serve people during a great in a time of need.”
Before working on the Food Express Bus, Scroggins helped find and navigate housing for homeless clients. While his position has changed, he’s said working on the bus takes him back to where his work started, helping people.
“The kids love what we are doing, they are excited and even look forward to certain items we serve,” Scroggins said. Kids get two meals, breakfast and lunch, providing 2/3 of USDA requirements, in a bag to take home. The meals have two ounces of protein, two servings of fruit/vegetables, one serving of bread and eight ounces of milk.
“Once they see our bus drive up, I can tell people are really happy,” Olga Moya, Program Aid for Street Saints said. “My experience has been awesome. It feels good knowing kids count on us to give them something to put in their tummies.”
Moya is reminding families at the Food Express Bus to fill out their census questionnaire and is educating families on how the data collected in the census impacts resources for their community. As a Spanish speaker, she’s enjoyed seeing staff from different backgrounds coming together to feed kids. “We’re a diverse team,” Moya said. “We’re from different programs, we speak different languages, and we’re here for everyone.”
Due to COVID-19, kids do not need to be present to receive meals. One family member is encouraged to pick up meals when possible. The meals are prepared and served meet strict USDA and CDE nutrition guidelines. No documentation or registration is required. Learn more
The Food Express Bus is also a mobile designated Safe Place, providing access to immediate help and supportive services for youth in need. As a Safe Place location staff are able to offer immediate assistance to any youth facing a personal crisis or in need of safety. Youth can text “safe” to 4HELP (44357) to receive info regarding their local youth agency and “2chat” to text immediately with a trained counselor.