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By Tim Hunt

Stepping up to meet needs during the pandemic lockdowns

Uploaded: Apr 12, 2022

When the pandemic and the lockdowns hit nearly two years ago, Jacqueline Garcia was serving in the St. Michael’s Catholic Church office and fielded many calls asking for help.
A couple of months into the lockdown, she and her co-workers started asking what they could do to help. That launched Jacqueline as a professional shopper for a season. With the help of seed money from donors, she would shop every Friday, filling her SUV with food bargains from the Tri-Valley to Tracy. A volunteer team would assemble boxes and each Saturday people would drive through the St. Michael’s parking lot to pick up a box of fresh food.
With food banks typically providing canned goods, she shopped for fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, milk and other perishables that people could use soon.
She remembered that for the first week she and her team discussed how to many boxes to make up, 25 or 50. They settled on 75 and surpassed that quickly. The program got a boost in the first year when they had a partnership with the farmers to families program. Each week, 12 pallets of 35-pound boxes of food were delivered to the church. They distributed five—300 boxes—while the other seven went to various partners for distribution.
Donations of food from various outlets have grown significantly and, after the farmers to families program ended, they’ve partnered with the Alameda County Food Bank. Jacqueline and her team continue to buy food to supplement what’s available after the weekly Friday delivery. Volunteers put together the boxes on Fridays for the Saturday distribution.
She estimates they are serving about 200-225 cars every Saturday now plus delivering to another 75-100 homebound people.
When drivers come to the church on Saturdays, they are welcomed and asked if they would like prayer. Those who would like prayer have a sign put on their vehicle so they can be directed to the prayer team.
“We are feeding individuals without food security and we also offer to feed them spiritually, “she said. “I don’t know who gets more out of it—the prayer team or the individuals who drive through.”
Having passed the sad two-year anniversary of the shutdown, Jacqueline thought that we would be nearing the end of the needs. Instead, she’s seeing just the opposite with inflated food and gas prices putting more families on the edge.
Read more Thursday on another organization meeting the food challenges.