Hoping to reach even more people, and especially seniors, the Food Bank of El Dorado County has launched a new mobile food truck program that delivers groceries to those most in need.
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Started two months ago, so far the mobile food truck has made stops in El Dorado Hills, South Lake Tahoe and Pollock Pines with people learning about it through the more than 30 charities the Food Bank partners with.
On Wednesday, they set up shop in the parking lot of the Veterans Memorial Building in Placerville. Waiting patiently for groceries was a large contingent of people. Many of them were families with young children. But there were also working-age people and senior citizens, some in wheelchairs and others using walkers.
Mike Sproull, founder and executive director of the Food Bank of El Dorado County, was there to help give out groceries. He said they probably fed 150 families which, by his calculation, translates to 450 individuals. At South Lake Tahoe he said they fed 130 families and in Pollock Pines and El Dorado Hills they fed 75 families each.
Sproull said one of the biggest reasons behind the mobile pantry is to improve the diet of senior citizens through outreach.
“The Food Bank has plenty of canned goods and nonperishables,” he said, “but we want to get more produce and perishable items to people so they eat a healthier diet. Canned food drives are good but we need financial donations so we can buy perishables. We’re trying to give a full spectrum of food that people can use to make meals.”
Sproull said the Food Bank visits 12 different grocery stores every day and is very grateful for the short coded food they receive, but produce is harder to come by because stores are reluctant to give it away due to potential health concerns.
As a result, many of the items they gave away on Wednesday were actually purchased from the California Association of Food Banks “Farm to Family Program” and the California Emergency Food Link at a cost of only six to 10 cents a pound. Those items included milk, juice, pastry, bread and produce.
“We’re the most efficient charity in the county,” claimed Sproull. “People get a five to one bang for their (charitable) buck. We have a budget of a half million a year and are able to distribute $3 million worth of food a year through our hundreds of volunteers and the network of charities we work with.”
Sproull said they have seen a 25 to 30 percent increase in the number of people requesting food assistance.
“A lot of families and a ton of senior citizens live on under $1,200 a month,” he said. “Seniors are caught in a real bind because they don’t have a lot of options. As the economy has faltered, some people have been able to cut back. But many people have no room to cut back.”
Hoping to give their new program a higher profile as they roll it out, Sproull said they will be at the upcoming Summer Spectacular in Cameron Park and will also respond to some emergencies until the Red Cross arrives. “It’s a tool for the community in that way too,” he said, noting that he was looking for groups and businesses that want to sponsor the mobile pantry as well as staff it.
Sproull said a lot of people in the county don’t understand that there are areas of extreme poverty in the county, even in affluent areas like El Dorado Hills.
“It breaks my heart the things I hear,” Sproull said. “When the economy faltered, people cut their budget. But some have nowhere to go. They can’t make any more cuts. Can’t go to the grocery store. Can’t buy produce because it’s too expensive. The people we serve had already cut back. I want more people to have a look at hunger in El Dorado County because there are tons of people living in poverty and hunger.”
Since they are still testing the program, Sproull said there is no set schedule for when the mobile pantry will be in a particular community. So for updates, people should check with their local food closet or the Food Bank of El Dorado County at 530-621-9950.
Contact Dawn Hodson at 530-344-5071 or [email protected] Follow @DHodsonMtDemo on Twitter.