Guest post by Kristy Osborn, Extra Helpings Coordinator. In the month of November, the Food Bank distributed a $15 Safeway gift card to each client in the Extra Helpings Food Program and will be doing the same at the end of December. Each year, the Food Bank distributes gift cards in the program during these months in lieu of distributing turkeys or hams due to food safety, personal choice, and logistical reasons. “By giving our clients a gift card instead of a turkey we are able to ensure that they will be able to get what they want because not everyone likes turkey or ham. Also, it is a lot easier to transport 50 gift cards rather than 50 turkeys to a distribution site and there are no potential food safety issues. It’s just a win, win all around to do it this way,” explained the coordinator of the Extra Helpings Program.
The gift cards allow the clients to have the ability to pick out something special for themselves during the holidays. For many of them, this is the only gift they may receive during the holiday season since some are estranged from their family and have few social outlets to make friends. One client expressed his appreciation and excitement regarding the gift cards saying, “Thank you sooo much! I’m gonna get me a big turkey and make a feast with all the fixings for Thanksgiving.” When the Extra Helpings Coordinator asked the client who was coming over the client responded, “No one since all my family lives on the east coast and I don’t have too many friends. I’m just gonna cook a big Thanksgiving meal cause I like to cook and I deserve it!”
The Extra Helpings Program is a supplemental food program for people of all ages who are living with HIV/AIDS and are case managed through the Contra Costa County AIDS Program. Clients can receive food twice a month through this program and generally receive a box of nonperishable items (canned foods, dry pasta/rice, cereal, peanut butter, etc.), a bag of produce, bread items, meat (chicken or beef), cheese and a gallon of milk each time they come to the distribution site. The Extra Helpings program offers home delivery service for clients who are medically homebound and too weak to pick up their food. The Food Bank has been offering this program since 2006.