Guest post by Tom Barnidge, Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano Volunteer:
The single-file line began forming at least 30 minutes before the event was to start. There were men and women, old and young, tall and short. There were mothers pushing strollers, pre-schoolers hanging on to parents’ hands and seniors leaning on walkers and canes.
They were white, black, Hispanic, Asian, all united in a purpose this day: They came to fill their bags with 20 pounds of fruits and vegetables delivered by refrigerated truck and then piled high on folding tables on a San Pablo parking lot.
The Community Produce Program, which services neighborhoods far and wide, is only one of many ways that the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano helps put dinner on the tables of disadvantaged families. But until you see the operation in action, until you see the smiling faces and the twinkling eyes, you can’t appreciate what this program means to families struggling to get by.
On this day, a simmering Friday in September, about 200 participants — most indicating they had three or more dependents at home — patiently waited their turns to check in with a volunteer and fill their bags with three-pound portions of potatoes, onions, carrots, oranges, pears and apples. All waiting lines should be so orderly.
The truck’s twice monthly visits are keenly anticipated and its schedule well known, thanks to word-of-mouth communication by appreciative participants. Every visit is an important visit, of course, but some leave special memories behind.
On this occasion, it came from a youngster about 4 years old, who quietly followed his mother from station to station, boredom on his face, until he saw what awaited him on a table near the end.
“Wow,” he said. “Apples!” His eyes lit up.
It was a moment that reminds you why the Food Bank is so important.