Anza Electric Cooperative, FIND’s free mobile community food pantry serves hundreds

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Volunteers say, “Cheese!” as they hand out bags of shredded cheddar at the Food In Need of Distribution Inc. Food Bank and Anza Electric Cooperative’s free Mobile Community Food Pantry Saturday, Feb. 8. Anza Valley Outlook/Diane Sieker photo

Anza Electric Cooperative employees, community volunteers and Food In Need of Distribution Inc. Food Bank personnel dispersed free, fresh and nutritious food to Anza residents at the monthly mobile community food pantry program Saturday, Feb. 8, at the AEC facilities in Anza.

About 300 people were served, according to preliminary estimates.

The program, organized by FIND and the AEC, enlisted the volunteer help of several local organizations, as well as their own employees.

The food provided consisted of fresh strawberries, pears, lettuce, oranges, potatoes and zucchini. A spiral-cut ham, tortellini, boxes of Lean Pockets, shredded cheddar cheese, milk, crackers and cookies were also provided to each participant at no cost.

Anza Borrego Health Center representatives were on hand to provide educational flyers and advice on medical services offered by the organization. The American Heart Association displayed a presentation illustrating the amount of sugar in popular juices and other beverages, cautioning against excess processed sugar in the diet. Pamphlets and other materials were available to those wanting to improve their heart health.

Hamilton High School students, women from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Anza, Cub Scouts and other volunteers assisted in dispersing the food and transporting heavy bags to residents’ cars using foldable carts

In 2019, the AEC board of directors approved a donation for the mobile pantry that was matched by the Sharing Success matching grant program from CoBank – one of the cooperative’s lenders. The remaining funds were donated by the High Country Conservancy. All this effort made it possible for the Mobile Pantry to distribute food to Anza residents in need.

Food In Need of Distribution Inc., or FIND Food Bank, is the only regional food bank serving eastern Riverside and southern San Bernardino counties.

They distribute over 10 million pounds of food assistance annually to an average of 85,000 individuals each month, doing so through a network of 100-plus community-based partners whose programs include food pantries, soup kitchens, after-school and summer care, senior centers, faith-based organizations and homeless shelters.

FIND is a member of Feeding America and the California Association of Food Banks.

The free community mobile food pantry is planned for the second Saturday of every month.

“This would never have happened if it wasn’t for congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz putting FIND in touch with us during the Cranston Fire,” Jennifer Williams, AEC government relations liaison, said at the September event.

Ruiz said he saw the need in Anza during the Cranston Fire in 2018. He worked to bring the various organizations together.

For more information about FIND, visit them at www.findfoodbank.org.

To learn more about the monthly food giveaway event at the cooperative, call (951) 763-4333 or visit www.anzaelectric.org.

Diane Sieker can be reached by email at dsieker@reedermedia.com.