Food Share pop-up pantries are drive-thru only, so they can be as low-touch as possible, officials said.
Ventura County Star
Ventura County supervisors agreed Tuesday to contribute up to $855,000 in tax dollars to Food Share, the food bank facing unprecedented demand for aid in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown.
The Board of Supervisors approved a third of the money — or $285,000 — for a month and authorized management to provide the same amounts in each of the succeeding two months. Managers pledged to return to the board for approval if they want to provide another allotment beyond the three-month period.
County officials said that the money will come from county property tax dollars but that they expect to receive partial reimbursement from the state and federal governments. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has committed to covering 75% of the cost, according to the county’s emergency services director, Patrick Maynard.
The county’s investment allows the food bank to better plan purchases in the competitive market for supplies during the pandemic, Food Share CEO Monica White said afterward. She said it takes three to four weeks to get food orders because of backlogs that both food banks and grocery stores are facing.
“This is great timing,” she said in a brief interview.
The public money must go toward food, additional staff and supplies to help individuals and organizations who lack food because of the pandemic, a county document shows.
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In order to curb the virus and the associated illness called COVID-19, state and county officials have closed many businesses and asked residents to stay at home. The unemployment rate rose to 4.6% last month, up almost 1% from the previous March, but economic specialists predict it could reach 15% to 30%. About 44,000 unemployment claims had been filed by county residents as of early April, County Executive Officer Mike Powers told the board.
Terms of the agreement show the money cannot be used to replace Food Share’s own spending on food, which has increased sixfold up to $300,000 a month. The public funds can only be used for expanding services and supplies, the pact shows.
Food Share must use the money to buy 4,000 additional boxes of food per week, according to the agreement. The organization also must maintain at least five pop-up pantries in the county; provide both walk-up and drive-up distribution where feasible; and offer at least one day per week of extended hours of operation to accommodate people who work during normal business hours.
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The nonprofit must also provide the county with monthly detailed reports showing how the food was acquired and distributed as well as the clients served and overhead costs.
The food bank began operating pop-up pantries to deal with the food shortage amid the closure of 25% of the community pantries in its network. The pantries closed as donations from grocery stores dropped off in the midst of hoarding by shoppers. Additionally, many pantry volunteers were seniors who had been ordered to stay home to protect their health.
White said the county’s contribution will allow the food bank to continue buying food for the pop-ups that are being established at a rate of 20 per month.
Recipients receive boxes filled with staples such as peanut butter, shelf-stable milk, cans of chicken or tuna, beans, pasta, rice, and canned fruits and vegetables. A bag of fresh produce, mostly apples and oranges, is added to the supplies.
For more information, visit https://foodshare.com/.
Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at [email protected] or 805-437-0271.
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