The Merced County Food Bank and Salvation Army Los Banos teamed up to give away 600 boxes of food to Los Banos residents on Wednesday morning.
The boxes were provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of its drought relief assistance.
“It’s hard to put a number on it. We’ve just seen an increase in citizens that need assistance,” said Salvation Army Lt. Felicia Grant. “The drought reflects their financial (situation), so whatever financially that they have to provide for – PG&E, food, clothing, all those things that are connected to having financial stability – that’s where we see the need.
“Our food distribution has increased slightly as far as our daily bread and sweets that we give away. We see now an increased number of homeless families that have come through our doors or have been in contact with us because of a lack of work.”
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Depending on the number in a household, the family received one or two of the 30-pound boxes, which contain oatmeal, peanut butter, canned vegetables and fruits, rice, beans and spaghetti, among other things, according to Merced County Food Bank USDA coordinator Sharon Leroux. The Los Banos giveaway was the organization’s first since receiving 12,000 boxes from the USDA.
“Since the governor declared California a state of drought, the USDA, they issued boxes to the food banks,” Leroux said. “So we’re going to have these distributions throughout Merced County, and we’re going to hit the migrant camps as well, because that’s going to be a lot of the mainly affected ones, because of no jobs. No water ... no farming. So we’re going to have distributions periodically. We don’t have any more set up as of yet, but we’re going to.”
Folks in Los Banos were waiting by the time The Salvation Army was ready to start distributing. Each recipient was asked to sign his name and state how many were in the household. About 10 Salvation Army employees and volunteers were on hand, as well as a handful of Food Bank employees.
“Its impact is taking awhile, but I think it is finally affecting them to the point where they don’t have an answer,” Grant said. “It’s very difficult to recuperate from being unemployed or underemployed and not having the resources, so whichever way we can help, and this is one of our ways that we can help alleviate some financial burden by providing the food so they can use their monies for other obligations.”