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Food Cupboard Sees Need Surge
Seeing an increase in the number of people needing service at the local food cupboard, director Christopher Larson said the C.A.R.E. Center is holding its own, but definitely has seen a surge.

The Community Action Resources of Escalon, C.A.R.E., Center is on Second Street and serves as the site for the weekly food cupboard, monthly distribution of government commodities and the twice a month senior citizen brown bag program.

While school was out for the summer, families with children that take part in the free and reduced lunch program during the school year often had to utilize the emergency food cupboard.

"We were about 20 families, each week, above last year," Larson noted of the summer increase. "We very definitely see the impact the economy has had and we are seeing far more local people, permanent residents."

Larson said the economy has prompted visits from people that have never had to go to a food cupboard before.

"Maybe the husband got laid off or is working just a few hours a week," he said. "Our clientele mix was different, a lot more first timers."

Larson said his goal is to make sure no one in the community goes hungry. He urged those that find themselves unexpectedly facing financial difficulty - such as in layoffs or work slowdowns - to utilize the C.A.R.E. Center, even if they need it just one time.

"Even short term, we're glad to help them," he said. "There's a lot of people that need it, they just don't come in."

Supported by the Escalon Ministerial Association, the C.A.R.E. Center also benefits greatly from community and school food drives during the year.

"Supplies have bounced up and down," Larson added of the food on the shelves. "The food drives in the community have been very good all summer, if it wasn't for them, some weeks would be lean."

Donations of food are also accepted; contact Larson for more information.

The food cupboard is open every Wednesday, 9:45 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., for emergency needs for those residents in the Escalon and Farmington area. Each person receives a bag of food, which can include canned meats, some fresh produce if available, canned vegetables, bread, cereal and more.

"My goal is to give a nutritionally balanced bag," Larson said. "We need to give a protein, a vegetable or two."

During the summer, the center also benefits from donations by local growers, who often bring in fresh fruits and vegetables. Other local businesses also contribute and Larson said he and his volunteer co-workers are grateful for the many donations that help keep the shelves stocked.

Along with the Wednesday emergency food distribution, C.A.R.E. is open the third Thursday of the month for the government surplus food distribution and senior citizens can participate in the 'brown bag' program for supplemental food on the second and fourth Tuesday, also a government program.

Larson said now that school is back in session, the need may subside a little, but it could still be high, given the economic conditions.

"Last week we gave out 98 bags," he said of the Wednesday distribution.

With more than 10 years working at the site, Larson said he still enjoys it, since it his way of 'giving back' to the community he calls home. He also stressed that residents should not shy away from utilizing the service when they need it, even if they are a 'first timer.'

"Nobody goes hungry, that's the important thing," he said of C.A.R.E. being there to fulfill the needs. "We basically are here to serve.