Sarah DeJohn, a recent transplant from Seattle, fell in with the beautiful landscape and small town vibe in Visalia. But she found something missing. DeJohn would see posts on social media of pets being abandoned in the unincorporated parts of the county and the many orchards just outside Visalia. She also saw that the area shelters were at max capacity with strays and surrendered pets. As a long-time avid animal lover, she wanted to do something.
In DeJohn’s own words this is what she did.
The next few years I spent building my new life here in Visalia. I got my career going, and began a family. However, the thought of our area’s disadvantaged pets never strayed far from my mind. In March of 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, the light bulb finally turned on. I saw all the posts about FoodLink passing out food boxes and thought if humans had a food pantry, why not pets?
I did some research and found out EBT/CalFresh does not cover pet food. I also found out that although pet food pantries did exist, they were in Fresno and Bakersfield, thus making them virtually inaccessible to Tulare County residents who need their assistance the most – the homeless, senior and low income members of the community.
I put out a post on the social media site Nextdoor and within a week had collected a little over 100 pounds in donated food. I decided to call the pet food pantry “Moose’s Meals”, after my rescue dog, Moose. Seeing that this was something that people were excited about and willing to donate to, I created a Facebook page.
Within three weeks of the page being created we had collected over 700 pounds of food. We held our first distribution on May 2nd and passed out over 500 pounds of pet food to owners in need. We also went to the St. John’s River and Oval Park and passed out over 100 cans of food to unsheltered people who had dogs.
Visalia has been so supportive of Moose’s Meals, the sense of community is overwhelming. It is hard to have a sense of community in a city of over 800,000 people and that was all I had ever known. Moose’s Meals opened my eyes to the power of small business and how important it is to support local businesses and non-profits.
We have received invaluable advice from The Source LGBT+ Center, Union Jacki Dog Rescue, Halo Café, Fresno’s pet food pantry, and the Bakersfield Pet Food Pantry. The Source LGBT+ Center is even matching up to $1,000 of donations during our first fundraiser that is currently ongoing. I love seeing the community come together in a time like now, when it is so difficult for us to see each other.
We are currently in the process of obtaining our 501c(3) so that donations can be tax deductible, which will hopefully open up more doors for us to collect donations directly from the pet food distributors and obtain business sponsors.
If you need assistance, or would like to help our Moose Meals please go to our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/moosesmealsvisalia.
Our goal is to distribute pet food once a month and hope to hold our next distribution very soon. Check out our facebook for the next distribution date.