Rural food distribution nonprofit at standstill after FoodLink denial

A press release written by Mary Jane Galviso, Director,

Rural Communities Resource Center (RCRC). Valley Voice will be doing a follow-up article next week.

Advocates for the Rural Communities Resource Center showed up to a Tulare County Board of Supervisors meeting in support of the organization. Courtesy photo

Every Friday at noon, rural residents from northern Tulare County and southern Fresno County line-up for the weekly drive-through community food distribution. Food, Our Right! (FOR) is a program by the Rural Communities Resource Center (RCRC) based in Orosi and operating since 2015. RCRC is a 501(c)(3) community-based organization (CBO) nonprofit serving residents in the rural communities of Orosi, Cutler, East Orosi, Yettem, Sultana, Monson and Orange Cove.

For months, RCRC has struggled to keep up with the growing numbers of rural residents who show up. The winter season has greatly increased the numbers of agricultural workers who must turn to community food sites such as FOR to feed their families because there is little to no more work in the surrounding fields and orchards.

To start its community food program, RCRC applied to both the Central California Food Bank (CCFB) in Fresno as well as to FoodLink for Tulare County, Inc. in Exeter. Its application to become a community partner agency with CCFB was soon approved.

However, on the county level, FoodLink rejected RCRC’s application saying they were “at capacity.” For months, both FoodLink staff and its board president, Rie Reniers, have refused to meet with RCRC to discuss exactly what they mean by “at capacity” or discuss withholding of USDA food commodities for the rural residents RCRC serves.

Frustrated with Reniers lack of response, RCRC has gone before the Tulare County Board of Supervisors twice to appeal for its help in order to receive USDA food commodities. FoodLink is Tulare County’s designated food bank because it holds the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the State of California.

After RCRC’s first request for help in front of the BOS, Board Chair Pete Vander Poel III advised RCRC to contact Don Williams, Director of the Food Distribution Unit for the California Department of Social Services. When reached by phone, Mr. Williams expressed surprise that the County would refer the matter to him. Although he expressed deep concern, he stated that there was “nothing we (the state) can do since this is out of our jurisdiction.” His office encouraged RCRC to work with local authorities to have FoodLink release USDA commodities. After all, he said, our agency “is pushing a great deal of food into Tulare County” so lack of food cannot be the reason for withholding USDA commodities.

In a response email to RCRC Board president, Mayda Lutap, Board Vice-Chair Shuklian stated that, “Unfortunately we have no jurisdiction over the decisions Food Link makes.”

FoodLink has been providing food from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) since 1984. As the largest food distribution agency in the nation, FoodLink ensures food is on the table for 400,000 California families who need it most.

This is the dilemma that RCRC faces as it struggles to provide for the basic food and nutritional needs of its rural residents: Both the state as well as the county claim they have no jurisdiction, and therefore, cannot help RCRC obtain USDA commodities from our county food bank, FoodLink.

This means that rural families who depend on the Rural Communities Resource Center’s food distribution program will be looking at a Thanksgiving holiday without turkey and pumpkin pie.

42 thoughts on “Rural food distribution nonprofit at standstill after FoodLink denial

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  1. Just because one doesn’t “have jurisdiction” doesn’t mean that they can’t “inquire”. Typical people working in government programs funded by taxpayer dollars with the attitude of “not my problem” to justify looking the other way and not raising a finger to help find a working solution. Foodlink needs to issue a public explanation of what “at capacity” actually is and their refusal to meet with RCRC. Hunger doesn’t recognize “boundaries”. Sharing is the right thing to do.

  2. In the late 90’s I knew someone who volunteered at FoodLink. She was wealthy and made sure her refrigerator was full before anyone else. Full of cheese etc. FoodLink sounds like they haven’t changed, still corrupt.

  3. The most mind-boggling thing about the rejection of the Rural Communities Resource Center’s application for USDA commodities is that it denies food to the very people who plant, pick & pack these fruits, nuts & vegetables. Now, that there’s no work for many agricultural workers, FoodLink must adjust for capacity needs for our rural communities

  4. These hardworking people deserve every little help they can get. Especially during these hard times. Sad to hear they can’t get the help they deserve.

    • I am a business owner in the local community I’ve seen what this pandemic is doing to the people and the help they need A lot of people are not getting the food that they need rcrc needs more help

  5. Its upsetting to know that we are denied food during this pandemic when we need it the most. Some of us are in need of this food in order to feed our family’s because the money we make is not enough and since winter is coming many of us field workers get laid off for weeks or months. So please have a change of heart and release the foods we need. Thank you Mary Jane.

  6. my name is joseph baniaga one of the volunteer in RCRC in orosi my board of director maryjane galviso and all my campainous we all asking in your deepest heart please we need your support to donate much more food to feed people who needs and hungry family such as me.thank you hope you hear my voice….

    • It hurts to see my fellow community in such need all they are asking is for support so they can feed those who have less than. Now that the holidays are here and the colder seasons have approached. There’s nothing like going to sleep with a full belly. We are all being effected by this pandemic and all the RCRC wants to do is feed the needy yet they have to plead for help. Do what Jesus would do.

  7. I like the RCRC for trying to help the community but they need more help by getting more better quality food.

  8. The RCRC is helping the community and with the pandemic going on they need all the assistance they can get regardless the limit, the world is only growing if they need more food then give it!

  9. Mary Jane is one of the hardest working person who has a heart for helping the needy. These people need food to servive and this year help is needed more than every. Praying for your help. Myrna Pilkerton

  10. I think it’s unfair that we are being discriminated against and not being given USDA food commodities to our families from food link. We deserve USDA commodities.

  11. I as a farmer think this is discrimination, we work hard and deserve all the help we can get. Brown Lives Matter!!

  12. My family and the once’s in my community deserve that food we work hard in the fields orosi cutler need help this is discrimination we should be united.

  13. Necesitamos comida para nuestra comunidad en estos tiempo de crisis ahí gente que está batallando para poder sobrevivir día a día especialmente los latinos que trabajan en el campo

  14. We work hard to feed our families but FoodLink gives it to Open Gates Ministries in Dinuba instead of giving it to us and RCRC here in Orosi, Cutler & East Orosi. This is real discrimination against us.
    We deserve more!!

  15. That rural residents deserve the same amount and the same quality of food that urban residents get. To deny many of our rural communities – which have a majority of people-of-color and immigrant – is clear discrimination.

  16. I’m a farm worker myself and this hurts to hear that USDA won’t step in to help the communities that need it! Brown Lives Matter!

  17. Sounds like the state does not want to provide for the community because I know people that rely on RCRC and RCRC can only do with they got. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible.

  18. I am a business owner who helped the RCRC but there is only a few things I can do but, the state on the other hand can do a lot more. Give the help RCRC needs.

  19. Esto es discriminación no ay leche huevo ni carne no ay jugos mantequilla no tenemos los alimentos básicos para darles de comer a nuestras familia necesitamos mas comida para la población de orosi

  20. It is unfair for the USDA not helping the cities when they work as hard or harder then most people especially with all the field workers.

  21. The USDA should help citizens that work harder than others. These people don’t have the skill or the opportunity to have a better or more easier job. workers are having hard times especially during this pandemic.

  22. I have been a volunteer for the RCRC food distribution program and have witnessed the need of community members who will stay in line for hours for food. There have been several times that we have run out of food. But the important question is why does the RCRC not have access to USDA food products that include milk, eggs, cheese, cooking oil, peanut butter and meats. We obtain the food boxes of products from Food Link that include pastas, canned goods and at times canned tuna and chicken. We also get vegetables from Food Link and once a month are able to obtain the packaged vegetables. All of this is good, but certainly is not enough quality food that allows a family to make a meal. That is the issue for RCRC. Since I have been volunteering (4 months now), there has been only one time that we were given hamburger. I thank Food Link and the Food Bank for their help in obtaining food for the community. The question is why are we not able to access USDA products that provide a more rounded distribution of food needed by the community. COVID is getting worse in our area, farm workers will be out of work for winter months. I urge those who can make decisions to do the right thing. Our families and seniors and seniors deserve support.

  23. I am disappointed that we have to get to this point to get the USDA, this is a discrimination for Cutler, Orosi. Brown lives matter.

  24. It’s sad to hear that we are getting denied USDA when other places are receiving that help this is a discrimination we should get treated equal. BROWN LIFES MATTER.

  25. We need the USDA help for our families! Especially with the pandemic that is going on why are we the ones being discriminated. Brown lives matter!

  26. It is unfair that we aren’t receiving the USDA help we need it for our family we should all get treated equal!

  27. Those that have full bellies, filled refrigerators and kitchen shelves make the decisions for those that have empty stomaches and empty refrigerators and kitchen shelves. They need to walk a mile in the shoes of those that need the help. There are children out there without enough to eat. It’s easy for those in power to deny help to those in need when you do not feel hunger. They’re just nameless faces out there. The workers paid their taxes, where’s the help when they need it?

  28. Soy una trabajadora del campo y aveces nos es difícil salir adelante por escocés de dinero sería bueno que empezaran ayudarnos más en la forma de comida especialmente aquí en Orosi California

  29. We need FoodLink to give us USDA food here in Orosi.I take care of my 4 grandchildren to help my daughter when she is at work. It’s not right that the residents here don’t get meat, milk, juice, cereal, eggs, oil and these USDA food to help feed our families. Please FoodLink think about us.

  30. We need USDA food commodities
    To help feed our families and community we cannot live off of just fruits and vegetables.

  31. We as a community need USDA foods to help feed our families. We are being pushed to the side and are only being given fruits and vegetables to live of off. The same fruits and vegetables we pick as workers in the fields. We need USDA FOODS FOR OUR FAMILIES!

  32. For years, FoodLink has awarded the contract to Open Gates Ministries. Once a month, Open Gates Ministries distributes food to Orosi and Cutler. However, RCRC distributes food weekly. Who should really hold the contract? Most residents do not have cars or unable to find a ride to the bigger towns for distribution, leading them go to RCRC for food. The only issue is that RCRC does not receive the USDA commodities larger cities receive. We need these commodities to flow into the crevices of our Central Valley!

  33. We need USDA foods to feed our communities. We are not currently getting any and are solely relying on fruits and vegetables that are given to us to help feed our families. We deserve theses USDS FOODS. Brown lives matter.

  34. To deny Cutler and Orosi food to distribute is a shame and an justice, and makes no sense. Where is there a community with greater need? There isn’t, so why isn’t our community getting help? If the food is to help the poor and in need, we should get a share. It’s that simple. Anything less would suggest an inexplicable unfairness or dishonesty. Thank you.

  35. I am so disappointed that we are being ignored by the people who are supposed to help us who are in need. They should be ashamed for not doing their jobs. They do not deserve to work there and be professionals if they cannot even define what’s “at capacity” means.

  36. This is why we are not getting the foods we need like meat and ect. We keep getting fruits and vegetables.

  37. So many lies, lets video tape your food give away. You give one family boxes of food and give another family to bags of food. If you stop giving your family and friends, volunteers more off the food. You would have more to give to the community.

  38. Thank you RCRC for 30 pound of hamburger. And boxes veg and fruit. Me and my dog will enjoy. Feel bad about those family of 6, only got 6 pound. It is, what is

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