Community FoodBank hits the streets to fight hunger

Mobile food pantry brings groceries to community

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Lorena Gutierrez of Aromas occasionally stops by the mobile pantry that the Community FoodBank of San Benito County sets up on Memorial Drive across the street from the skatepark on Wednesday afternoons from 11am to noon. Photo: Juan Reyes

The Community FoodBank of San Benito County has always aimed to fight hunger by providing thousands of meals out of their main warehouse. 

But, the local non-profit organization has switched things up lately by taking the streets with their new mobile pantry marketplace—a huge truck stocked with free groceries to help families and individuals in need.

Lorena Gutierrez will sometimes make the trek from Aromas to Hollister. She said the truck has been convenient for her because now she’s able to pick up food at one of the eight stops throughout the week while she’s running her errands in town. 

She said it also alleviates some of the expenses because going to the grocery store can be very costly.

“They give away a lot of different things and it’s great because we can save some money,” she said.  

Gutierrez mentioned she stopped going to the food bank some time ago but she recently started going back because she realized that $100 doesn’t get you much these days at the grocery store.

Community FoodBank CEO Nancy Frusetta said the idea of having a marketplace on wheels had been in the works. The mobile pantry was specifically targeted for people who had no way of making it to the main warehouse on 1133 San Felipe Road.

The mobile pantry was vital to the community, especially now given the current crisis with the Covid-19 pandemic, Frusetta said. 

“It couldn’t have come at a better time for us to be able to reach people who couldn’t make it to us,” she said.  

The truck makes a stop at two different locations in Hollister from 11am-noon and 12:30-1:30pm each day from Monday to Thursday. 

The week begins with setting up shop on Rajkovich Way and Fourth Street. Then they head out to the second location at Tony Aguirre Memorial Park on Bridge and Graf roads.

On Tuesday morning, they park on Memorial Drive directly across the street from the skatepark; followed by an afternoon trip to Rancho Drive near Rancho San Justo Middle School.

The truck stays busy on Wednesday with trips to River Parkway and Nash Road in the morning, followed by a stop at Dunne Park in the afternoon. They set up shop on Thursday morning on Sierra Court and Rustic Street and end the week with an afternoon trip to Third and San Benito streets.

Gabriela Mercado of Hollister said the mobile pantry is a big help for everyone struggling, especially those who lost their jobs. She also mentioned that parents now have to take care of their kids at home and the costs of feeding them goes up. 

“It’s really good to have someone stop by to help us,” she said. 

Community FoodBank Program Coordinator Sindy Munro said they try to cater to their customers’ needs, such as providing easy-to-open jars or cans for homeless people at Dunne Park.

She said the truck is also stocked with salads, pasta and sauce, coffee and fresh corn and flour tortillas from El Nopal Bakery in Hollister.

“We try to cater to everybody,” she said.

Those interested in shopping at the mobile pantry must fill out an application with minor details such as name, address and phone number. Munro stressed that they never ask for immigration status and the information they obtain is used to determine how much food they’ll need to stock the truck.  

The mobile pantry is made possible in part due to a Community Development Block Grant through the City of Hollister. Frusetta said they know what the demographics look like and they focus on setting up shop in areas where people are in need of assistance.

Frusetta said the way the mobile pantry works is that the Community FoodBank is able to serve food with dignity. She wants to be able to give people the freedom to shop for the necessities that they want or don’t want.

“I think it is really hitting the need that’s out there in a very special way to make it convenient,” she said. 

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