By Ally Hoogs
The pandemic has ravaged many communities, forcing people out of their jobs and homes while bills keep rolling in, demanding to get paid. With businesses closing, many people cannot afford to feed themselves or their families, leaving them more reliant than ever on life-saving food services until they can get back on their feet. The Las Lomas community and Contra Costa County Food Banks have helped many by planning many food drives throughout the pandemic through virtual and socially distanced donations.
Leadership teacher Marlene Miranda mentioned that during these drives, she has noticed that “there is a bigger need because people are out of work and need food while others are donating less” than in previous years. The gap is so drastic that the Contra Costa Food Bank preferred financial donations instead of food to supplement the small turnout of donations caused by the pandemic.
Co-Presidents of the Las Lomas Helping Hands Club, Natalie Mangani and Allison Quan, are experiencing the same trend. Mangani explained that she found it more difficult to “raise food during the pandemic because we [the club] had to find a contactless way to pick up and drop off food, as well as informing people about the drive.” Quan then explained that despite the difficulties, the club felt “a stronger desire in planning a food drive for our community,” due to the growing demand. She mentioned that they could have gotten more donations if there wasn’t a pandemic, but both presidents are very proud that the club coordinated and raised 28 bags of food to get donated to the CCC Food Bank.
Last month, Las Lomas Leadership also hosted a toiletries drive for the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center. But, according to Miranda, “it wasn’t too well attended” either. She further explained that “there have been fewer drives in general because we [Las Lomas] are on full distance learning,” but they continue to push through with more events planned that benefit the community.
Contra Costa County Food Drive administrator Neil Zarchin noted that they usually hold around 85 ongoing drives in a year, but in 2020 only held 45, along with 120 fall/winter drives. Zarchin reported that “In 2019, we [CCC Food Bank] received 1,206,315 pounds of food through food drives. In 2020 that number was down to 728,778 pounds.” He also mentioned the growing demand for donations by explaining that while they serve 100,000 people each month in Contra Costa and Solano, their food distribution has expected to increase from 21,000,000 pounds to 40,000,000 pounds.
White Pony Express in Contra Costa is also facing a difficult situation in obtaining food donations from grocery stores, restaurants, catering companies and markets to distribute them to residential facilities, schools, community shelters and kitchens throughout the county. Representative Mandy Nakaya noted that “Since COVID-19, more food donations are currently needed in our community,” and during the pandemic, it is much harder to do so. However, it still managed to rescue 15,000 pounds of food per day through their rescue program.