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#MemberMonday: Food for People, The Food Bank for Humboldt County

March 15, 2021

This week’s featured member is Food for People, The Food Bank for Humboldt County. Food for People is the primary hunger-relief organization for Humboldt County, which stretches over more than 4,000 square miles in rural, coastal northern California. Food for People works to alleviate hunger through a combination of traditional food banking — collecting, storing, and delivering food to a network of pantries and community partners — and through targeted hunger relief programs that provide food directly to people in need.

Food for People’s programs include a countywide network of food pantries, mobile produce distributions to the most rural areas of the County, food distribution programs for children, older adults, and homebound individuals as well as nutrition education, CalFresh outreach, local food recovery, gleaning efforts, and unique partnerships with local farmers and ranchers. Food for People distributes more than 2 million pounds of food annually to the County’s most vulnerable members. 

I’d just like to say thank you to Food for People and the community members that help to support the program. It really has relieved so much stress over the years and has allowed me to focus on other aspects of raising my kids without the worry that they are hungry. I really have appreciated the help.
Mother of a child in the Backpacks for Kids program

The difficulties of 2020 began early for Food for People. In late February, mere weeks before stay at home was enacted to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, they experienced a major crisis when a city sewage inundation caused extensive damage to their flagship facility. This building served not only as the main storage and staging space for their countywide network of food pantries and hunger relief programs, but it also housed their Eureka food pantry — the largest in the county. Due to the extent of the damages, staff and food bank operations had to be moved entirely. Fortunately, a few short weeks later Food for People was able to resume services by leasing several temporary locations as both warehousing and direct service spaces. 

Like in other areas of California, many in Humboldt County are suffering as a result of the pandemic — from families staying home with kids, to older adults unable to leave the home, or those experiencing lost wages and revenues. Prior to the pandemic, the California Center for Rural Policy’s Food Access Report found that Humboldt County experienced the third-highest rate of food insecurity of California’s 58 counties. In order to address the needs of their community during the pandemic, Food for People pivoted quickly, adding emergency drive-thru distributions at several locations in the county to expand their reach and the amount of food available to those in need. They also made the decision to use the State Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) allocated to them to help low-income families impacted by the virus by providing food-only gift cards to nearly 13,000 households. 

I am feeling so well cared for having received your gifts of food this morning. Thank you for your long and continued support for us.
Visitor to an emergency drive-thru distribution in rural Humboldt County

Now, a year after this crisis began, Food for People is rebuilding. At their old location, the water has been drained and the building demolished. The new facility will not only replace what was lost, but will add more features to better meet the food assistance needs of Humboldt County.

These include expanded space for emergency foods, added cold storage to increase healthy food offerings, a larger food pantry to better serve those in need with dignity, and space for partners to come in and connect clients with other services that help address the root causes of hunger and poverty.  You can watch their video about it here:

“Despite the challenges of the past year,” says Food for People’s Development Director, Carly Robbins, “Food for People has found ways to meet the food needs of our community, and we will continue our work to create a healthier Humboldt County for everyone.”

Photos and stories courtesy Food for People, The Food Bank for Humboldt County.
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