When a community is affected by a large-scale disaster, food banks serve a critical role as “second responders.” They provide food and water in the immediate aftermath and offer longer-term food assistance to people rebuilding their lives.
When the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano worked with four other Bay Area food banks to develop an emergency response plan a few years ago, we had visions of needing it for a crippling earthquake, not fires of unprecedented magnitude. The objective of this mutual aid agreement is to be able to quickly coordinate efforts and concentrate support where we are needed. The plan was activated for the first time during the Santa Rosa area fires last year. With the recent devastation caused by the Camp Fire in Butte County, that plan has officially been activated once again.
As a member of Feeding America, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano has an established ongoing partnership with nonprofit agencies serving Butte County and the surrounding area. Now that we have activated the emergency response plan, the other Bay Area food banks, along with Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services, have all agreed to help us expand the capacity of our North State partner agencies. While the other food banks are assisting in transporting and warehousing the disaster relief food, we are conducting food distributions directly to the displaced victims to help meet the demand.
“Our hearts break for our neighbors north of us in Butte County,” said Larry Sly, our Executive Director. “We’re sending food, water and staff so children and families who are devastated by the Camp Fire will have some comfort and support during their greatest time of need.”
The Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano’s new distributions are taking place in Chico and Oroville twice a month as long as our services are needed. The activation of the emergency response plan during the Santa Rosa fires taught all food banks the importance of building a flexible plan and being ready to adjust when necessary.
With their eyes welling up with tears, survivors of the fires in Butte County have been sharing their heartbreaking stories with us. Most of the people we’ve met have never before needed food assistance, yet they are now having to turn to us.
If you know of anyone in the affected area needing assistance, please share this flyer with them.
We will continue to serve the needs of Solano County and Contra Costa County residents struggling with hunger, in addition to providing emergency support to fire victims in Butte County. And as we take care of today’s increasing needs, we have to continue preparing for the next catastrophe. The Bay Area food bank’s emergency response plan has now been activated twice in just a little over a year, so we know it’s not a matter of if–but when–we’ll be needed again.
The stronger our collective safety net is in the event of a disaster, the faster our communities will be able to get back on their feet.