The three main food pantries in Galt say they’re seeing a substantial increase in demand for meals and have had to turn away families due to lack of supplies. As the impact of the coronavirus pandemic escalates, food pantry officials are concerned about being able to keep up with the demand.
South County Services, Real Life Church Food Pantry and Sunshine Food Pantry, all located in Galt, say they are in need of help with funds, food donations and, in some cases, volunteers.
Each pantry has had to alter their distribution procedures due to social distancing and, in one case, has had to stop clothing distribution altogether. All pantries have set up a “drive-thru” system instead of allowing family members to come into the pantry while volunteers pack their food boxes.
Food box contents are based on the size of each family and include nonperishable food items such as rice, beans, pasta, canned goods, as well as cheese, available produce and juice to name a few items. The boxes are not intended to solely feed the individual or families, but to help supplement their own food pantries.
Although the drive-thru appears to be working for most families, the directors are concerned for the elderly population who also receive services.
Each organization delivers to three senior communities in Galt; however, many seniors pick up their own food items. Organizers are concerned the seniors will stop picking up their food due to the coronavirus threat, therefore halting access to nutrients.
Also of concern are the seniors that were serviced through the Meals on Wheels program, which has ended its daily café at which lunch was served and where South County Services distributed biweekly food boxes.
Seniors in need are encouraged to reach out to the food pantries to try to work out delivery of food items.
All three organizations purchase nonperishable food items through the Sacramento County Food Bank at a discounted price. Real Life and Sunshine Food pantries also receive past dated bakery and dairy products from Walmart, Raley’s and Save Mart in Galt; however, according to pantry organizers, those donations have dropped.
Even with the discounted pricing, with the greater amount of food needed, annual budgets for the pantries are stretching thin.
The Sunshine Food Pantry, managed by Galt United Methodist, relies on donations from members of their small congregation, as well as many other churches in Galt, including Horizon, St. Christopher’s, Seventh-day Adventist, New Hope and St. Luke’s.
According to pantry director Faye Gaines, the Sunshine Food Pantry regularly serves over 100 families twice a month. In February alone, the pantry served over 1,200 people.
At the March 26 distribution, Gaines said they packed a few extra boxes, but still had to turn families away empty-handed.
For the most part, the small congregation fulfills the volunteer portion of the pantry; however, Gaines said most of their volunteers are senior citizens.
“We had 20 volunteers, most teenagers, come and help us (last week) during food pickup,” Gaines said. “I didn’t want our older volunteers being exposed to someone who might be sick.”
Gaines said that the older volunteers helped to pack the food boxes the day before distribution, but had other volunteers pass out the food.
Gaines said that volunteers from New Hope Church helped to fill the void last week, but would appreciate any volunteers that are willing to help for future dates.
The Sunshine Food Pantry distributes meals on the second and fourth Thursday of each month.
Real Life Food Pantry services approximately 100 family units on the first and third Monday each month. Real Life also turned to prepackaging the nonperishable food products before distribution and added produce as the boxes were handed out in a new makeshift drive-thru.
“Families could just drive up and we would put the boxes right into their car,” pantry Director Michelle Bustamante said. “That way there is little to no (physical) contact.”
Bustamante said that at their last distribution day, March 16, they had planned for an additional 25 families, but still ended up turning away 20 families. Over 126 boxes of food were handed out 30 minutes into the two-hour distribution time period.
Bustamante said they would plan for 200 families for the April 6 distribution, and she hopes that that will be enough.
Real Life Church members, for the most part, fund the entire pantry through donations. Bustamante said that an annual budget is produced for the pantry using those financial contributions.
South County Services, the largest of the three, services all of the south areas of Sacramento County, from Elk Grove south to the county line and the Amador County line west throughout the Delta beltway, servicing 300 individuals in Walnut Grove alone. The organization had to turn away people at its last distribution day in the River Delta area.
Executive Director of South County Services Maria Rosales mans a team of three employees to help facilitate donations, organization and distribution for the organization, and is funded through various government programs, but also relies on charitable donations.
Rosales said that logistics are a huge problem right now, especially since they saw nearly twice the amount of people in need last week as compared to before.
“We need help with getting the food here from Sacramento,” Rosales said. “We can only bring so much in our vehicle.”
Like the other two pantries, South County Services set up a drive-thru for its normal distribution.
“It went better then expected,” Rosales said of their first run at the new distribution protocol.
As national, state and county leaders announce extended stay at home and business closure measures, it is expected that more and more people will be in need of food help; if donations do not increase, the three pantries fear they will have to turn families away empty-handed.
If you are able to help with financial or food donations, or are able to help volunteer, please contact any of the food pantries for information on how to donate: South County Services, 209-745-9174; Real Life Church Food Pantry, 209-730-6354; and Sunshine Food Closet, 209-745-4133.
Where to Donate
All three of the food pantries in the Galt area are in need of financial and nonperishable food donations.
South County Services
431 S. Lincoln Way
Galt, CA 95632
Real Life Church
550 Industrial Way,
Galt, CA 95632
Sunshine Food Closet
571 C Street
Galt, CA 95632