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Enjoy San Joaquin Valley Living

Food Pantries in the South Valley

Oct 24, 2016 11:00AM ● By Ben Ralph

Fill the Need

November 2016
By Ben Ralph

The holiday season is upon us, and since ‘tis the season for giving, there’s no better time to look into local opportunities for paying it forward.

With the first major holiday of the season being Thanksgiving, an exploration of the local possibilities for giving food is in order. The Sweet Eats Program in Fresno supports families with children undergoing treatment in the oncology unit at the Children’s Hospital Central California. Goals are to provide free meals and drinks out of the Sweet Eats Family Kitchen and to deliver meals, gift cards and groceries to help support families whose time and energy is sapped by the daily physical and emotional struggle of coping with their child’s illness. Another means of support is a laundry service for families whose children are hospitalized. While families take care of their loved ones, Sweet Eats helps take care of them in the most beautifully practical ways. People can support this effort with financial and meal donations. 

The Fresno State Student Cupboard is unique in that it focuses on assisting the student population. According to staff member Jessica Medina, it started with a research finding that 31 percent of students surveyed at Fresno State experienced food insecurity. Since 2014, the Food Security Project has continued to grow, and Medina noted the future goals are to provide education on nutrition, teaching cooking skills and linking students to other community resources to help them after graduation. Volunteers are welcome, as are monetary or food donations. 

FoodLink in Exeter has several programs, ranging from distributing federal food assistance to local agencies and food pantries to fun and innovative ways of teaching nutrition to families, as well as reducing the stigma of receiving assistance. One such program is SmartPack. Working in conjunction with schools serving low-income communities, SmartPacks containing nutritious, easily prepared food items are provided to children during times where aid may otherwise be unavailable, such as weekends or holidays. Another program is Nutrition on the Go/Healthy School Farmers Market. In communities where obtaining fresh produce may be difficult, FoodLink organizes an event mimicking an open-air farmers market where participants can handle fresh items, enjoy samples and participate in education on nutrition and recipes. Volunteers are always welcome. 

As the 2016 winner of the Visalia Chamber of Commerce’s Non-Profit of the Year award, the Bethlehem Center is also improving lives. This organization offers a food pantry and prepares hot meals, in addition to offering clothing and laundry services and more. If you have a particular interest in giving back for the holiday season, you’re in luck: The Bethlehem Center coordinates special events for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other major holidays, and welcomes volunteers.

For more information on how to give or volunteer:

Sweet Eats Program

Food Security Project-Fresno State Student Cupboard

FoodLink of Tulare County

Bethlehem Center