Season of Sharing: Food Bank redesigns to better serve community – Fort Bragg Advocate-News

FORT BRAGG, CA — This year’s annual Season of Sharing, sponsored by the Fort Bragg Advocate-News for more than twenty years, is once again highlighting the Fort Bragg Food Bank, one of the most essential, locally funded community assistance services we have. Challenged in the spring of 2020 by the pandemic shutdown, short of critical volunteers to run the day-to-day operations, the Food Bank was forced to redesign itself. It withstood its difficulties and grew bigger and better.

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New produce donations await shoppers at the Food Bank Farm Stand. (Mary Benjamin — Mendocino Beacon)

Although social distance restrictions were mandated by the state, the Food Bank was able to incorporate the state health regulations and adjust its distribution systems. It remained solidly committed to providing food and other essentials for local residents. Many of its clients became more economically unstable due to job loss. Food Bank Office Manager Ang Dominguez described it bluntly, “There was a need.”

Crisis Creates Opportunity

Dominguez recalled the necessary steps taken to care for their clients. “Many of our volunteers were elderly and were too at risk to come in and help anymore. Shopping in the warehouse stopped, and we had to set up a drive-through in the parking lot.” With few volunteers available, the Food Bank put out a call across social media sites for help. The Fort Bragg community did not abandon the Food Bank. New volunteers, giving whatever time they had, came on board.

Clients placed their orders and received their choices in a pre-packed food box within minutes. Since many other clients had no transportation to the Food Bank during the shutdown, volunteers spread out into the community, delivering needed food to senior housing and to the homeless while monetary donations continued to flow in to meet the crisis.

Surprisingly, the Food Bank then found itself able to expand its outreach. Six months ago it opened two small facilities directly across the street from their location where clients can now take a ten-minute shopping slot to pick up a few items not included in their pre-packed box. Right outside, a farmstand offers local, donated produce available to the general public regardless of income level.

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At the Farm Stand fresh bread, dairy products and canned goods are also available. (Mary Benjamin — Mendocino Beacon)

The 2021 Season of Sharing opened with a successful “Turkey Challenge” for Thanksgiving that brought together individual donors and the matching funds of cooperating local businesses. While Dominguez was unable to provide a total amount, she explained, “Our community is so generous. We’re still collecting and adding up!” The Fort Bragg Fire Department as well held its annual drive and has brought donations and food to the Food Bank.

Filling The Need This Season

Although pandemic restrictions have eased, the needs of vulnerable community members have not. There are many ways any or all of us can help out. Can you grind coffee beans, pack a food box or carry it to a car? Could you deliver a few food boxes to seniors? Then volunteering some time is for you. Give the Food Bank a call or go in person. They are located at 910 North Franklin Street. Curbside deliveries are Monday through Friday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. On Wednesdays, the time is extended to 5:30 pm. The staff can be reached at 707-964-9404.

Could you spare some canned or boxed goods? Do you have some surplus garden produce? Then finding a donation bin or dropping by the farmstand is for you. This year the blue-lettered donation bins are located at Mendocino Savings Bank, Harvest Boatyard, and the Food Bank, and the farmstand is open Monday through Friday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm.

Could you spare a few dollars or more on behalf of the Food Bank? Then a monetary donation is for you, and the Food Bank has an easy mail-in and online system to use. Donors’ names will be published weekly in this paper. Weekly donation totals will be published as well. If you prefer your donation to remain anonymous, please clearly note that on your check or online payment. Dominguez stressed, “Donors may designate that their donations are made in the memory or the honor of persons important to you.”

You can mail a check, labeled on the memo line for Season of Sharing, to The Food Bank, P.O. Box 70, Fort Bragg, CA 95437. You can also call the Food Bank, 707-964-9404, to donate via a Mastercard or Visa. Ask the staff member to note that your donation is for the Season of Sharing. You can opt to donate through PayPal. Go online to fortbraggfoodbank.org and click on the Donate button. Type in Season of Sharing on the comment line below the amount of your donation.

During the 2021 Season of Giving, let’s remember all our neighbors who are still living with little hope and deserve the best possible chance in life with a little help from us.