Serving Hope

By Ariel Armanino

As one of San Joaquin County’s longest standing non-profit organizations, the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton has spent the last 51 years fighting hunger in our community. According to Executive Director Mary Lucero, the mission of this vital organization is “to build a stronger community by providing healthy food, nutrition education, and hope to San Joaquin County residents who find themselves in need.”

The Food Bank fulfills this mission through multiple programs, which reach upwards of 100,000 local residents each year. In fact, for 2019, the Food Bank is projecting an overall distribution of 6 million pounds of food in San Joaquin County. And while the Emergency Food Bank is committed to tackling hunger on a day-to-day basis, their efforts are also big-picture centric. With a targeted focus on educating people on the importance of proper nutrition, they hope to create a future of improved health for our community as a whole.

In addition to their Main Pantry in Downtown Stockton, the Emergency Food Bank serves people county-wide through its Mobile Farmers Market Program. This program visits 62 sites within San Joaquin County, providing pantry staples, fresh produce, and nutritional education to residents in resource-deficient areas with limited access to traditional supermarkets and fresh foods.

The Emergency Food Bank has also piloted a new plan in Stockton called the Childcare Mobile Farmers Market, which specifically targets childcare centers in low-income areas. In addition to receiving fresh fruits and vegetables, the children, daycare staff, and parents receive training on how to create a healthy atmosphere and the importance of exposing children to wholesome, nutritional choices as early as possible.

Another notable program that sets the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton apart is their Pantry Partner Program, in which they provide resources and stock the pantries of approximately 15 other locations across San Joaquin County—effectively reaching an additional 30,000 people each year.

With such a large reach, the Emergency Food Bank requires a lot of manpower, and even more heart. The organization operates with a large number of community volunteers and a set staff of 14 people—the majority of whom were recruited off of the food line itself. Upon joining the Emergency Food Bank and getting to know her team, Mary said she was very surprised to find out that most of the staff members were once recipients of the Food Bank’s services, be it as adults or as children. Now, these incredible individuals pour themselves into the organization that once helped them. “I’ve never worked with a staff that has so much passion for what we do and who are so willing to go above and beyond what is asked of them,” said Mary. “I’m just so admirable
of it.”

For Mary and the Emergency Food Bank team, the people who they serve are their driving force day in and day out. They are community members from every culture, walk of life, and background. “We’re serving children, families, veterans, the elderly,” said Mary. “People have this image that it’s only the homeless population and it’s not. It’s the working poor and people who are doing really important jobs but are still struggling.”

The Emergency Food Bank of Stockton is at its very core, our people feeding our people. Staff and volunteers work tirelessly to ensure that no one in our community is forced to go hungry. More than fresh produce and canned goods, to the residents of San Joaquin County, the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton
serves hope.

Volunteering, food donations, and monetary donations of any size are all welcomed ways to help support the Emergency Food Bank of Stockton. Follow them on Facebook @EmergencyFoodBankStockton to stay apprised of all future news, events, and drives. And be sure to sign up for this year’s Annual Run/Walk Against Hunger on Thanksgiving Day!

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