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Community’s Food Programs Continue To Help Families
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Bob Spellman looks over the contents of a supplemental food box, distributed at the Escalon C.A.R.E. Center on Wednesday morning, part of the Farmers to Families program. Marg Jackson/The Times

There has been a steady stream of customers at the Escalon C.A.R.E. Center in recent weeks.

The local food pantry, open several days scattered throughout the month, also now offers food boxes through the Farmers to Families program. Volunteer Bob Spellman helped get the local organization involved in that program, noting that the only requirement was being a 501(c)3 faith-based non-profit.

“Last week we got over 600 boxes to split between us, Oakdale and Sonora,” Spellman explained.

The boxes provide some variety, adding to the items that are typically given out for families. The 12-pound box of Farmers to Families food on June 10 included items ranging from Stockton sliced apples, chopped lettuce from Salinas, onions and potatoes, to tomatoes from Manteca and stone fruit from Fresno. Spellman said he learned of the program through AgLink and felt it would be a good fit for the C.A.R.E. Center, which is a program of the Escalon Ministerial Association.

Along with the family food boxes, C.A.R.E. provides food to those who meet income eligibility requirements and also does a Senior Brown Bag program for eligible senior citizens. Typically, the C.A.R.E. Center is open Wednesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

They are closed one Wednesday a month, before the third Thursday, which is the Government Commodities distribution day. That will be on Thursday, June 18 from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m.

The popular Veggie Van is at the C.A.R.E. Center on the second Tuesday of the month at 9:45 a.m. and the Senior Brown Bag program runs twice a month on Tuesdays. The next Brown Bag day will be June 23 and the C.A.R.E. Center will be open for its regular Wednesday hours next on June 24.

“I started volunteering here around Christmas time, said Spellman, one of the newer workers at the Second Street food pantry.

He said the crew enjoys helping out in the community, and working with C.A.R.E. coordinator Sherrie Vaden.

“The thing about all these volunteers is they can’t wait to do this again,” he said, smiling as he helped bring boxes from inside the food pantry to the outdoor distribution area.

Crew members are masked up and recipients have to adhere to the social distancing guidelines while picking up their food. Each recipient this past Wednesday had a bag of food, the Farmers to Families box and an added ham, turkey or chicken.

Along with Vaden and Spellman, those working on site this past week were Patty Wood and Cindy Maldonado.

Vaden said she is happy that people are able to get the food they need from the local pantry and the organization is also working on getting a large commercial freezer so they can store additional food.

Spellman added that the Farmers to Families program has been especially beneficial during the pandemic, as it has allowed for some packaging and shipping jobs to be retained, along with those of the farmers producing the food. He also said packing the boxes with Central Valley fruits and vegetables makes it that much better for all involved, locally grown and locally consumed.

For more information on eligibility or the C.A.R.E. Center programs, contact Vaden at 209-417-2048.

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Volunteers Patty Wood, left, and Cindy Maldonado get ready to carry food items to a waiting car for a recipient of the Wednesday morning food distribution at the Escalon C.A.R.E. Center food pantry. Marg Jackson/The Times