Hunger Hits Home: Fighting Food Insecurity in Roseville, El Dorado County, and Folsom
Suburban food insecurity can often look invisible. It comes in various forms, including obesity, can occur in affluent neighborhoods, and strike at any moment. Add to that the pandemic, which has only exacerbated the problem. According to an article in NPR, nearly 1 in 4 households have experienced food insecurity this year. Fortunately, many local organizations, including food pantries and dining halls, are helping alleviate these challenges. Here are some such good Samaritans.
Placer Food Bank in Roseville believes no one deserves to go hungry. Their programs—Feed Our Future and CalFresh—help feed people across Placer, El Dorado, and Nevada counties. “Food insecurity [for seniors] means having to choose between paying for medication or food. For families, it means watering down juice to last longer,” says Director of Development Lisa Heinrich. Their free drive-thru farmers’ markets welcome hundreds of cars each month unexpectedly hit by the pandemic. Storage and refrigeration are their top priorities, as is fundraising. The inability to have their in-person annual turkey drive means online donations are valuable. “A $50 donation can provide $500 in groceries for those in need,” says Heinrich. placerfoodbank.org
Food Bank of El Dorado County provides aid through their Emergency Food Assistance Network comprising more than 25 partner charities throughout El Dorado County, and guaranteeing a daily safety net for people struggling to make ends meet. “In rural areas like El Dorado County [hunger is] often hidden, as the family needing assistance may be your neighbors, those you go to church with, or those your children go to school with. Food insecurity is all around but in a rural setting, folks don’t want anyone to know,” says General Manager Jenna Sproull. The organization’s unique No Vet Goes Hungry program ensures all veterans in the county have access to food. Their Mobile Pantry provides year-round sustenance, and they’ve also teamed up with Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians to help seniors aged 60+ with a Supplemental Food program. Their Annual Holiday Outreach on December 19 will provide meals for over 1,000 families. foodbankedc.org
The Upper Room Dining Hall in Placerville is a hot meal program that partners with over 16 local faith-based and civic organizations to provide services, meals, and take-out lunches daily. Prior to COVID-19, 9.8% of El Dorado County residents were living below the poverty line, according to Chairwoman of the Board Jennifer Mouzis. Although statistics since the pandemic are yet unknown, “the number of people who turned to the Dining Hall almost doubled during the summer,” she says. Every day volunteers prepare and deliver breakfast, lunch, and dinner to vulnerable people, including high-risk homeless citizens housed in motels/hotels during COVID-19. Food bank shortages impact how much food they receive and with fundraising being cancelled, they’re reliant on donors to keep free programs running. “We are so thankful that the community [has shown] up to support us and each other during these challenging times,” says Mouzis. upperroomdininghall.org
The Salt Mine in Lincoln has a variety of food distribution opportunities, including a food closet that offers monthly Pantry Boxes, weekly USDA Emergency Food Assistance, and three Fresh Food Giveaways. “We commonly hear stories of families having to choose between food and paying bills. Food is often seen as a controllable variable in a budget that can change month to month, whereas rent, car payments, electricity, etc. are fixed. This often results in food becoming last on the list of priorities,” says Operations Manager Stephen Hay. In any given month, they have 12 fresh food giveaways and any local can receive items—including dairy, eggs, and meat—as often as needed. Since their fundraising gala that normally raises 75-100K was cancelled this year, monetary donations are their best bet for propelling through the holiday season and into next year. thesaltmine.org
Friends of Folsom is basically a “framily” (friends and family) that have united to help causes in the community. “[Food insecurity] is far more prevalent…in our Folsom bubble than most people realize,” says President Jeff Garcia. Having provided meals for over 25,000 families and funded dozens of local charities, the volunteer group puts together countless events to raise funds. Their biggest event, a turkey drive on November 6 will be a socially distanced, outdoor event comprising auctions, raffles, live music, giveaways, food, and cocktails. Donations, word of mouth, and participation in the event will help sustain their efforts. “It’s important to understand that every little bit helps with the cost to feed a family at Thanksgiving…even around $10. Many people can help if willing,” says Garcia. friendsoffolsom.org
Twin Lakes Food Bank in Folsom serves perishable and nonperishable groceries to over 20,0000 individuals yearly in Folsom, Granite Bay, and El Dorado Hills. “We believe that access to nutritious food is a fundamental human right,” says Executive Director Lisa Tuter. The pandemic brought over 400 new families, many experiencing food insecurity for the first time. With three onsite drive-thru food distributions every week, one-third acre of an organic garden, and grocery deliveries to homebound seniors and students, they provide nutritious food to over 1,800 people monthly. Their virtual Twin Lakes Gala on November 6 will include an online auction and watch party, and a Thanksgiving Grocery Meal Drive-Thru Giveaway on November 23 is set to benefit at least 500 local families. “The best way to help during the holiday season is by donating funds earmarked for Thanksgiving or Christmas that will enable the food bank to purchase holiday groceries for less, compared to going to the store and purchasing items yourself,” shares Tuter. twinlakesfoodbank.org
BY Tara MendanhaPhotos courtesy of their respective companies or organizations.