Community FoodBank overwhelmed by generosity

Large donation enables the local nonprofit to provide meals through the end of the year.
LDS Food donation. Photo courtesy of D'Arrigo California.
LDS Food donation. Photo courtesy of D'Arrigo California.
LDS Food donation. Photo courtesy of D'Arrigo California.
LDS Food donation. Photo courtesy of D'Arrigo California.

On Oct. 27, trucks carrying 34,000 pounds of food arrived at the D’Arrigo Brothers Company in Salinas. The food, a donation from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, will be distributed to local families by the Community FoodBank of San Benito.

With future deliveries set to bring the total to over 77,000 pounds of staples like butter, cheese, spaghetti, ribbon pasta, macaroni and cheese, flour, and mashed potatoes, the food bank will be able to provide more than 60,000 meals across the county over the next two months.

“The church called us and told us they had a surplus, and that San Benito County was one of the places targeted for some of that surplus,” said Sarah Nordwick, community engagement and development director of the Community FoodBank of San Benito. “Our first thought was to the storage issue, but we thought, ‘This is a fantastic problem to have.’ So we started trying to figure out how to make it happen.”

With not enough room to keep the donation on-site at 1133 San Felipe Road in Hollister, the initial step was finding a place to store all the perishable food while the food bank put in place their own distribution plan.

“We got in touch with D’Arrigo’s and thankfully they said ‘yes,’” Nordwick said. “So we will be picking things up there as we need them, then store what we need here on a weekly basis.”

Without the help of D’Arrigo California, processing and distributing the huge donation would not have been possible.

“When we learned that the donation exceeded the food bank’s storage capacity we offered to store the two truckloads of items for the next few weeks,” said Mark Houle, director of facility operations for D’Arrigo California. “As a family-owned company, we understand that a growing number of individuals and families in our communities are struggling with food insecurity due to the pandemic. We are happy to help out the Community FoodBank of San Benito as they ensure families have a plentiful holiday season.”

The supplies came from an LDS church storehouse in Salt Lake City, Utah, fed by local farms and dairies, which exists to help members of the church and advance their humanitarian outreach. The COVID-19 shutdowns and hardships caused by the fires in California presented new challenges, and the church geared up production to be able to offer an even greater amount of relief.

“What we have been distributing is from the over-build of our efforts,” said Carl Woodland, spokesperson for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “We have products that are nearing expiration or were in greater supply so we found places to send them.”

The amounts sent to other locations varied based on need, but the donation to San Benito County was one of the largest distributed.

“What was sent to San Benito County was probably double the usual amount,” Woodland said. “I was asked to put together a justification for that amount and I talked about the agricultural foundation of our local economy and the number of people in the field who have been challenged by the COVID shutdown. So many of the workers have been struggling and we were able to get some extra help for these families.”

Nordwick said the FoodBank will be adding the donated food to items they already have in order to create approximately 60,000 individually packaged meals that should be sufficient to last until the end of the year.

“We will be making pantry packs that will be available in addition to what we are doing now,” Nordwick said. “They will also be going out to the schools and the more vulnerable people in our community. It is a pretty huge thing for us and will ensure that people in our county will have food at this time of the year and hopefully make the holidays a little better for the families. It is so wonderful that a church, a food bank and farm have been able to come together like this to help so many people.”


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Robert Eliason

I got my start as a photographer when my dad stuck a camera in my hand on the evening of my First Grade Open House. He taught me to observe, empathize, then finally compose the shot.  The editors at BenitoLink first approached me as a photographer. They were the ones to encourage me to write stories about things that interest me, turning me into a reporter as well.  BenitoLink is a great creative family that cares deeply about the San Benito community and I have been pleased to be a part of it.