Mother Lode food banks are taking steps to prepare for the busy holiday season in the next two months.
The Amador-Tuolumne Community Action Agency Food Bank was open for most services but closed to walk-ins last week so that staff could reorganize inventory at the 10,000 square-foot warehouse in Jamestown to make room for the typical influx of donations during the months of November and December.
“We do this in October every year right before we go into the holiday season because we get a lot of food donated around that time and need to reorganize the house to prepare for it,” said ATCAA Food Bank Director Lee Kimball.
Kimball said hundreds of donation barrels will be placed throughout Tuolumne County this week. The organization is looking for items to place in its Thanksgiving and Christmas food bags that provide ingredients for families to cook traditional holiday meals.
About 2,000 bags are supplied to customers at Thanksgiving and 2,000 more at Christmas, Kimball said. Some of the items being sought for the bags include pie filling, stuffing mix, cranberry sauce and gravy. Other items typically found in the bags are vegetables and fruits such as potatoes, yams and apples.
People are also encouraged to donate food items that will help supply the year-round demand. The needed items include cereal, peanut butter and canned tuna, fruit, vegetables and soups. Certain items that lack any nutritional value, like ramen noodles and soda, are discouraged.
“We are looking for shelf-stable products and with the highest nutrition content possible because there are people who depend solely on the safety net for food,” Kimball said.
Monetary donations are also needed to provide certificates for fresh turkeys, which will be given to income-eligible clients who fill out an application prior to the first Thursday in November for Thanksgiving and the first Thursday in December for Christmas, Kimball said.
ATCAA is also looking for volunteers during the holidays to help around the food bank, as well as drivers to distribute food and physically-able individuals to work in the warehouse moving heavy pallets and boxes.
The organization’s food bank supplies about 20 church and community pantries throughout Tuolumne County. Kimball said ATCAA serves more than 93,000 bags of food per year and receives up to 2 million pounds of donated food on average. Kimball said about 25 percent of those donations come from local sources.
For more information, contact Kimball at 984-3960, ext. 102, or holiday basket coordinator Phyllis Wingo ext. 103.
In Calaveras County, the Resource Connection is calling for donations to support its annual Santa’s Express distribution event on Dec. 20. About 1,300 families are expected to be supplied with food this year, according to Jeannie Hayward, program director for the organization’s food bank.
The Resource Connection will have red boxes placed throughout the county for people to drop off donations for the holiday event, Hayward said.
The specific items being sought are: Packaged gravy, canned pineapple, dry pasta, canned tomato products, shelf-stable microwave meals that aren’t frozen or refrigerated, rice, canned vegetables, fruit, soups, tuna, boxed stuffing mix, dry beans, boxed dessert, peanut butter and jelly in plastic jars, hot cereal and oatmeal.
“We need all the donations we can get,” Hayward said. “Our plan this year is to supply turkeys and hams, but we’ll probably need to purchase about 600 or 700 hams.”
Hayward said the Santa’s Express event is “100 percent” funded by local donations.
The third-annual Santa’s Express Dinner and Dance will be held Nov. 23 at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds to raise money for the distribution event in December. Tickets are $20 per person and activities include a silent auction, live music and a holiday-themed carriage ride.
The organization’s goal is to sell 500 tickets this year, Hayward said.
The Resource Connections serves about 1,000 families per month. About 12 church and community pantries are also supplied through the food bank.
Hayward said there are also plenty of opportunities to volunteer.
“We are going to need a ton of volunteers to help us,” she said.
For more information on the Santa’s Express Dinner and Dance, contact Gina Galloway at 559-2733, or Rayleane Gentry at 743-0378.
Monetary donations for the distribution event can be mailed to Santa’s Express, P.O. Box 919, San Andreas, CA 95249.