Some generous local individuals and companies have stepped forward to create a “no barrier” system to distribute free food to individuals who may not be reached by existing non-profit organizations and government agencies. The effort is being led by Jason LeFaive, Lead Pastor of SevenOaks.Church in Visalia and CityServe, Tulare-Kings.
Pastor Jason’s church is part of a faith based organization called CityServe which accepts donated products from retailers like Costco and Home Depot. Those items are then distributed through their regional partners. On May 21st, 2020, the USDA designated CityServe and its partners as a “Community of Faith and Opportunity” which qualified them to become part of the “Farmers to Families” program. During the pandemic crisis the USDA pays distributors to deliver food products that farmers might otherwise be forced to simply plow under.
Last week CityServe distributed 6,000 free boxes of fresh produce to needy families in Tulare and Kings Counties. Each box weighed about 20 pounds and contained 7 or 8 items. They will soon deliver 10,000, or more, boxes each week.
Those food boxes are initially delivered to a central point by distributors and farmers and briefly stored in cold storage space donated by Garth Ramseier, manager of the Anchor Warehouse in Exeter. Similarly, Jamie Wilson, donates storage space for dry goods at Exeter’s Sequoia Orange Warehouse – he is a partner in that company.
Every Tuesday and Friday between 7 A.M. and 11 A.M., participating churches and organizations can pick up the prepared food boxes to personally distribute to needy families regardless of church affiliation. They are the “Last Mile” in the USDA’s program to fight hunger across America during the current pandemic crisis. Organizations that would like to join the network can reach Pastor Jason LeFaive at 559-802-3667.
This week, Tulare County Deputy Sheriffs picked up 644 boxes to pass out in Traver. They were followed by a long line of trucks and vans, mostly from area churches, who knew which families in their congregations or neighborhood needed help. Brian McCullar, owner of B&R Transportation, provides free delivery of pallets of the food boxes when they have trucks traveling to remote locations in Kings and Tulare Counties.
Thanks to the vigorous efforts of local volunteers, just 10 days after the USDA program announced the program, Pastor Jason’s regional group was able to distribute their first 6,000 boxes of free food. Harold Meyers of Visalia, an agriculture consultant, mobilized his contacts in the industry to jump start the effort. The group quickly secured donations of storage space plus contacted multiple food distributors who could meet USDA requirements.
There was no delay by study groups or drawing organization charts. It was simply a focused effort by many good people who seized the opportunity to deliver free nourishing food to families who need it during difficult times.