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SCV Food Pantry meets community’s need year-round

40 percent of donations come during the holiday season

Posted: November 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: November 27, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Bonnie Lukes, left, and Janet Ancil prepare Thanksgiving Day food bags for the needy with donated food at the SCV Food Pantry in Newhall on Wednesday.

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The holiday season is the busiest time of the year for the SCV Food Pantry, says its executive director, Belinda Crawford.

But, as organizations around the Santa Clarita Valley step in temporarily to help families with limited resources during this period, the SCV Food Pantry meets family’s needs year-round.

The greatest need is always for protein — peanut butter, canned meats, tuna, macaroni and cheese, Crawford said.

And cash. Money is used to buy core items when donations run low.

Going into 2013, however, the local food bank expects to have a really lean year, Crawford said.

“We have over 6,000 unique, unduplicated clients,” Crawford said. “And we serve about 3,200 to 3,500 clients per month.”

That amounts to supporting 60 families a day, she said.

But on Tuesday, the SCV Food Pantry distributed food to more than 90 families in need.

Qualified clients can only come in twice a month for a help, she said. Those getting help from the food pantry must live locally and meet income guidelines set by the federal government’s income guidelines for poverty level.

And, while Crawford said the pantry is not seeing more clients this year than last, it is seeing clients come in twice a month, whereas they came in only once a month last year, she said.

“Clients have a greater need this year,” Crawford said.

Just over 50 percent of the SCV Food Pantry’s clients range in age from newborn to 18 years old, Crawford said.

The pantry was recognized in 2010 for being the only food pantry in the United States to distribute fresh milk.

But the need to help feed the hungry never stops.

Filling empty shelves

Last year, the pantry donated food worth $1.3 million to clients, Crawford said. It also spent about $100,000 in cash to buy food for those in need when supplies ran low.

Monetary donations help purchase core items when the pantry runs low on food, Crawford said. The pantry has spent a lot of money in last few months to replenish core items when donations were down.

When local shoppers dropped off donations at the Canyon Country Stater Brothers on Tuesday, that food was collected by the L.A. Regional Food Bank. It sells food to local food banks at reduced rates, allowing food pantries across the region to spend considerably less than retail prices for items they need.

“They do a fantastic job and we’re thankful to be part of their system of feeding America,” Crawford said.

But it’s also very gratifying that local stores and restaurants support local food banks, she said. Some of the local restaurants immediately freeze cooked but unsold food for the pantry, allowing it to distribute freshly cooked items.

Crawford also watches for sales at local stores when she can buy cases of food.

“I can buy 10 jars or peanut butter for $10 by the case,” she said. “We can stretch our dollars farther than the average consumer by buying in bulk at reduced rates.”

Buying in bulk also helps to feed homebound seniors, she said.

Senior outreach

The SCV Food Pantry has also received recognition for its senior outreach program, which delivers groceries once a month to seven housing complexes with a large concentration of seniors, Crawford said.

Due to a $60,000 grant for a pilot grant, the SCV Food Pantry was able to help feed about 1,100 seniors it didn’t previously serve.

“That grant has run out, and so we’ll have a larger number of clients to provide food for — without the money — going into 2013,” Crawford said.

The pantry also began to deliver food to homebound seniors when transportation became a major issue for many, she said.

“One guy would carpool people, but then the guy who had the car got sick and no one got food,” Crawford said. “We found we needed to go out to the community into complexes and deliver the food.”

But the needs of hungry families and seniors don’t evolve around a holiday schedule. The need is year-round.

Summertime blues

Ironically, Crawford said, need is highest in the summer when donations diminish.

“Kids who are normally in school are at home during the summer and need to eat all of their meals at home,” she said.

To make it from the holidays through the summer to the start of the school year, the SCV Food Pantry relies on donations made during the holiday season.

“Forty percent of our food donations for the entire year come in during the holidays, and the pantry depends on being overflowing with food at this time of year,” she said. “It’s natural though. People reflect on wanting to share with others — this is the time of the season for giving.”

The SCV Food Pantry works in a feast or famine mode all the time, Crawford said. The pantry’s shelves were empty right before Thanksgiving. Then the food and cash donations of local residents began to fill them.

Operating in the Santa Clarita Valley since 1986, the SCV Food Pantry has been feeding the hungry for 26 years, and in the spirit of “neighbor helping neighbor,” Crawford feels very strongly about distributing food only to those who reside locally.

“My pledge is to stretch every dollar,” she said. “Donors trust us to be good stewards.”




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