Wish Book 2021: Hitting the road to fulfill South Bay families’ food needs

Culture

Diane Jacobs goes shopping every other Tuesday.

She heads to the parking lot at the Moreland School District offices in San Jose and gets in line near the bright aqua Park-It Market, a mobile grocery staffed by West Valley Community Services, where she can stock up on meat, fish, produce, eggs and bread — and never have to stop to pay at a checkout stand.

This has been her routine for a couple of years now, since soon after her husband died of a heart attack one Christmas Eve.

“They make you feel so welcome, like you’re going to the store,” Jacobs said. “It really helps make ends meet. Most of my money goes to rent and bills.”

She and her son, Gregory, are among the 3,500 residents assisted annually by West Valley, a 49-year-old nonprofit whose services have never been more in demand than they are now.

“During the pandemic, we saw increases in requests that we had never seen in past years,” said Sujatha Venkatraman, the associate executive director. First were the individuals who lost their livelihoods, she said. Then a few months later, the small-business owners who were hit hard.

Toni Concepcion, a manager with West Valley Community Services, sets up their Park-It Market mobile grocery in San Jose. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group) 

Jacobs first reached out to the agency for help with her mounting PG&E bill. Then she learned about the food options.

Thanks to donors, shelves are generously stocked at the Park-It Market, which serves six locations, and the Cupertino main center, said Toni Concepcion, manager of food pantry operations. Growers from the Cupertino farmers market donate produce weekly. Second Harvest supplies most of the core proteins. Five stores (Sprouts, Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Costco) offer dairy products, bakery items, canned goods and more. And gleaners from Village Harvest donate fruit they’ve picked from the trees of local homeowners.

By allowing clients to shop for themselves instead of handing them a bag of groceries, “we give them dignity,” Venkatraman said. “Our approach is we are giving them a hand to lift them up.”

The agency helps 2,500 individuals with food assistance annually. About $25,000 in Wish Book donations would allow West Valley to expand its Park-It Market to the Anderson Elementary School community, where families struggle with both housing and food insecurity and 70 percent of the student body is eligible to participate in the free and reduced lunch …read more


Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

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