The line starts early as people are waiting long before the doors open. Only a few people come in at a time so everyone gets individualized attention and what they need. After checking in, people are met by their own personal guides. The guides take them through every section, cereals and grains, produce, fridge and freezer, sauces and condiments, baked goods, breads, and more are all lined up and organized waiting. Carts and bags are filled and taken out to waiting cars or rides, and then the guides go back in and do it all over again for the rest of the morning.
Such is a typical shift during pick up days at the food pantry in downtown Napa at 1746 Yajome Street. The pantry is run by Community Action of Napa Valley (CANV). It’s one of seven that they operate, serving people all over the Napa Valley.
This time of year, the clientele is broadening. The food pantry has gone from seeing 30 people to seeing 45 or 50 in the same time frame. For example, local service workers often end up with their hours reduced this time of year, leading to less money to spend on basic needs. Just over 60% of the people served are working class, most with two or three jobs. Approximately 20% are seniors over the age of 60, and that number continues to rise.
Another option available to seniors is the Senior Brown Bag Program. This program enables seniors 60 or older to remain independent as long as they can by giving them a “Brown Bag” with grocery items twice a month. Seniors can pick these bags up from 11 different sites throughout Napa County, or there are volunteers that deliver food to those who cannot pick it up themselves. An average of over 200 households are served monthly in Napa County through this program.
Another way CANV helps the food insecure in Napa County is with the Friday Free Markets. Friday Free Markets offer a variety or fresh fruits and vegetables and more for free, until they run out. It operates on a first come, first serve basis, and people are encouraged to bring their own
At least 80% of the budget for these programs comes from donations, and the vast majority of staff is made up of committed volunteers. There are currently four full time staff members, five part time, and 156 volunteers assisting in these programs. This makes these programs in large part by Napans and for Napans. Without the community’s help they simply could not operate at the level they do now.
This is the time of year when people often give a bit more generously, The holidays can bring that out in people, but Director, Shirley King, reminds us that people count on these services all year round. You can help by donating funds, or just as importantly, time. Volunteers do everything from acting as guides in the pantry, delivering meals, gleaning produce off of trees and so much more. Speaking of gleaning, it’s another way the community can help the Food Bank. Have a garden with excess produce? Or a tree with so much fruit you can’t possibly eat it all or maybe just too high to pick? The CANV Food Bank would love to hear from you!
Volunteering does not require having large amounts of free time. They request one full shift a month, about four hours. People can of course volunteer more than that if they like to. There are multiple volunteer opportunities, each one with different needs and time frames. But just four hours a month can get you started.Much needed funds not only help procure needed items, but other expenses as well. One big expense is fuel for picking up food and delivering food. So much time is spent behind the wheel for these programs, that the gas bill is $2,000 a month.
The food is stored in their warehouse at 1766 Industrial Way in Napa. Their current arrangement will be coming to an end within the next year, so CANV is actively looking for their next space. An ideal fit would be close to 2,000 square feet, and handicap accessible. If needed, a spot could be made to be handicap accessible, but having that already in place would make the transition that much smoother. The space needs to be centrally located and easily accessible. Central in Napa is ideal, and with parking, even better.
If you have a space available or would like to make a donation, please contact CANV at (707) 253-6128. For more information on volunteer opportunities, please visit their website at canv.org for a volunteer application. The website also lists all panty locations throughout the Napa Valley, as well as, the Friday Free Market location schedule and more information on all CANV programs.
Community Action of Napa Valley believe that no one should live in poverty, and aims every day to provide assistance to those in need. With the community’s continued support, we can continue the Napa Valley tradition of taking care of each other. canv.org