Helping our partners grow: Keeping food on the move in Antioch

Pastor Sylva stands next to Showers of Blessings' refrigerated truck.

When he’s not distributing food at Showers of Blessings food pantry, Pastor Sylva is putting in some serious miles.

Showers of Blessings is one of more than 260 local pantries, soup kitchens and other agencies that work with the Food Bank to fight hunger. By providing food and support to these agencies, we’re able to reach more of our neighbors at the times and places that work best for them, and better respond to specific needs within our community. 

As part of our strategic plan, agencies can also get help with bigger purchases and projects – like the new refrigerated truck Showers of Blessings purchased this summer through our agency enhancement grant program.

“Food is gold”

Because he participates in the Food Bank’s
grocery recovery program, Pastor Sylva travels from Antioch to San Ramon and back several times a week, picking up edible but unsaleable food that local grocery stores would otherwise throw out. 

“I am from Nigeria, and there are some places in Africa that food is gold,” he shares. “So when I come here and I see people wasting food, that hurts me.”

Showers of Blessings distributes food three evenings a week, and nearly everything comes from Pastor Sylva’s grocery recovery trips. On a typical night, offerings will include staples like peanut butter, potatoes and milk, but neighbors might also find out-of-the-ordinary items like bouquets of flowers from a local floral department.

Gabriel, who has been coming to Showers of Blessings food distributions since 2016, said the recovered groceries means he often goes home with food he already knows he enjoys – a Mediterranean salad one store stocks in its grab-and-go section is a particular favorite. He also appreciates being able to play a part in reducing food waste. 

“There was a lot of good stuff that I didn’t want to see thrown away,” he says.

More food, less worries

When the COVID pandemic began the number of neighbors seeking food at Showers of Blessings skyrocketed – and never went down. On a typical night, 100 to 200 households will receive groceries. 

Volunteers, including many neighbors who used the grocery recovery program themselves, stepped up to make extra grocery pickups. But the need for more cargo space was clear. 

The Food Bank’s agency enhancement grants are designed to help our partner agencies grow and improve their services, so they can reach more of our neighbors. Thanks to the support of hunger fighters like you, we were able to distribute $380,000 to agencies in Contra Costa County and $540,000 to partners in Solano County during this round of granting.

In addition to holding more food than a van, the truck Showers of Blessings purchased is refrigerated, which means no more worries about whether milk and other perishable foods will spoil when the temperature climbs.  

Pastor Sylva said that means he and Showers of Blessings’ volunteers can think less about picking up food and more about uplifting their community.

“We just treat them as people. Not like hungry people, but like people,” he says. “When they come here, we don’t have any reason to look down on them, unless we are picking them up.”

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