An employee for the City of Hollister helps distribute bags of food at the Community Food Bank of San Benito County on April 3. The food bank is using a drive thru service as precaution measures to keep families and employees at a safe social distance. (Juan Reyes)

By Juan Reyes

The line of cars waiting to get into the Community Food Bank of San Benito County was longer than usual on Friday.

Families within the county are stocking up on food as the county health officer issued a new order to extend the shelter in place requirements through at least May 3.

Scott Kindred, director of communications at Community Food Bank, said they have been busier than normal. Last week, 1,800 families were served through the new drive-thru service that was implemented at the San Felipe Road food pantry due to COVID-19 concerns. 

“We’re really thankful for the community,” Kindred said. “We’re getting a lot of support.”

The food bank transformed from a marketplace where people would grab a cart and pick items like they would at a grocery store. The drive-thru was instituted as a measure to protect the families.

“Less proximity, less hand to hand contact,” Kindred said. “It’s also a protective measure for our volunteers, staff and vendors too.”

The last two weeks of March saw an 825 percent increase in the number of people signing up for groceries at the local food bank. Kindred said they’re currently serving 1,000 more people than they were last month.

Community Food Bank has also partnered with the City of Hollister to do senior delivery service that began two weeks ago.

Kindred said they usually distribute food to senior citizens at the community center but they’re shutting down the service because it’s considered a large gathering, which is prohibited by the local stay-home order.

The California Conservation Corps showed up at the food bank April 1 to help assort food and pack bags. They were on hand April 3 to help guide traffic as cars kept lining up on San Felipe Road.

“We’re happy to have them help because it’s dependable, it’s skilled and they’re really hard workers,” Kindred said.

Community Food Bank had previously made arrangements with the San Benito County Office of Emergency Services to have the National Guard help. But Kindred said he was told they were deployed on a different assignment.

Kindred said all donations are welcome but the most useful support comes through monetary donations.

“When we spend the dollar it goes further than when somebody goes to Nob Hill and spends the dollar,” he said. 

Kindred said they have greater buying power through their sources.

They’ve also received tons of moral support and had personal protective equipment donated, such as a couple of cases of masks from Central Ag Supply in Hollister. 

“That’s super important,” Kindred said.

Community Food Bank has received an abundant amount of food through partnerships with Monterey County Food Bank and the USDA.

Kindred said the families are getting fresh produce and canned goods. They’re also getting relief boxes from the state that include staple groceries such as rice, beans, pasta, sauces and canned meat. However, they are seeing a lower volume of fresh produce from growers coming in as well as bread, which comes from local grocery stores.

“We do bread runs every day but they’re out of bread so we’re out of bread,” Kindred said. 

The biggest concern moving forward is, will Community Food Bank run out of resources moving forward?

Kindred said it’s natural to feel concerned but he mentioned they operate at a different level.

“We operate under the spirit of abundance,” he said. “It’s a mindset because we know the stuff that gets in these bags, the pallet of food, that’s going to keep coming. There’s no doubt about that.”

The California Conservation Corps volunteered at the Community Food Bank of San Benito County April 3.
Local families were given bags of food at the Community Food Bank of San Benito County April 3.
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