A little over 30 years ago a few ladies saw a need in the Riverbank community and started a social service group called Riverbank Christian Food Sharing to provide food assistance to those in need. The ladies would load the trunks of their cars with food and go from house to house delivering food to families that could use a little bit more food to get them through.
The three Co-chairs, Lynda Silva, Julie Boos and Yolanda Guider currently continue the custom of providing food to families, seniors, or individuals that could use some assistance.
The need continues to grow even more in Riverbank due to the poor economy and minimal job opportunities. There are several seniors in the community that are retired and living on fixed incomes with several expenses like insurance and medications along with the normal living expenses; many of these are able to take advantage of the three-day food supply provided by the Christian Food Sharing group, according to Silva.
“These people just can’t make it, they really depend on coming in and getting that three day supply of food which I am sure they stretch as far as they can,” stated Silva. “This is called emergency food; they are not getting a whole week’s worth of groceries.”
Every Friday the group of volunteers serves approximately 125 to 170 families including senior citizens. The people that participate in the food giveaway must be a resident of Riverbank or attend a school within the Riverbank City limits.
The group is able to help the community due to a federal grant called Emergency Food Shelter Program that they apply for every year.
“That (grant) is getting harder and harder to get,” said Silva. “We have been given a grant every year but the money doesn’t come in easily.
“It (the grant) is very controlled on what you can spend the money for.”
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) website, the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program (EFSP) is a Federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s FEMA and has been entrusted through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (PL 100-77) “to supplement and expand ongoing efforts to provide shelter, food and supportive services” for hungry and homeless people across the nation.
“We buy most of our things locally,” stated Silva. “O’Brien’s is a great source for us as far as buying canned goods, canned fruit, and things like that as well as Cost Less in Oakdale which is another good source for us.”
In the beginning they were buying their food from Second Harvest food bank but are no longer able to go there. The Salvation Army and Interfaith Ministries provide the local food bank with many of their items. The local Methodist church has also been a huge supporter of the food bank as well as local residents that have provided financial assistance. In years past Save Mart and Target donated goods to them but due to corporate decisions those business donations now go to Second Harvest and not to the local food banks. However, Save Mart donates pastries and some bread to the pantry for their Friday food giveaway. Cisco no longer supplies them with food as they had for several years in the past, Silva said, adding to the uncertainty of how the needs will be met.
“So that has been a real blow to us as a small local pantry,” expressed Silva. “Right now what we are really in dire need for is help for the holidays, like turkeys for Thanksgiving.”
Most of the volunteers are women with only a few men that drive the truck and unload it. The food sharing group has approximately 20 volunteers on a regular basis. Ida Kennedy, 84-years-old, is in charge of the kitchen and has been volunteering for over 25 years.
“So when you have volunteers like that there are just some things you can’t do,” stated Silva. “We are just not physically capable of it.”
“We have a pick up on Monday, Tuesday, and on Thursday and then give out on Friday,” said Boos of how the schedule works.
During the summer people plant gardens and have given the food bank items they have an abundance of like zucchini and tomatoes, which get passed along to the recipients.
Riverbank Christian Food Sharing has collaborated with other service groups under one umbrella called Riverbank Cares which also includes St. Vincent, Rotary, and the City of Riverbank.
The Riverbank Cares organization will have a huge Christmas giveaway on Dec. 19 at the Community Center in Riverbank. They are expecting anywhere from 300 to 350 families to serve that day.
Monetary donations, canned foods, non-perishable foods, anything will be accepted at the Christian food sharing site at the Scout Hall on High Street.
“We have a full walk in refrigerator and freezer so we have the storage capacity to hold anything,” said Silva. “Call me and I will gladly go pick up a turkey.”
“If people would prefer to do money, we can usually stretch it farther than the people can because of our relationship with O’Brien’s and Cost Less,” said Boos.
“We have a great working relationship with the Riverbank community; it has been tremendous,” expressed Silva. “But right now we are in real dire need to help people for Thanksgiving.
“We really need turkeys.”
On Nov. 22 Riverbank Cares will hold a turkey drive for the Christmas food giveaway in December, however; none of the turkeys collected will be used for Thanksgiving. The service group will also accept chickens for the drive.
Silva explained that sometimes stores will have a sale on their turkeys like buy one get one free and stated that if you don’t need a second turkey to donate it to them. Call the number listed below and they will pick it up.
“God provides,” expressed Boos. “It is just absolutely amazing.”
“Volunteering is hard work but it is very rewarding,” added Silva. “Our people are very appreciative.
“We must be doing something right because we keep getting blessed.”
If you would like to volunteer, donate turkeys or food, call Silva at 209-480-6548.