Local Food Pantry to the Rescue

Donated canned goods benefit receivers and givers at West Valley Community Services.

When the Jacobson family went to West Valley Community Services (WVCS) in 2008 to request food pantry services, their disability benefits had stopped. 

"Laura was receiving unemployment benefits, but it wasn’t enough to support the family," recalls Jacqueline De Guzman, director of community resources for the agency. "Her husband, Jake, had been on disability benefits due to a work injury, and when Jake’s benefit stopped abruptly, the Jacobsons applied for general assistance including food stamps.

"While waiting for approval, they fell behind in their bills, including rent and PG&E. Laura worked diligently with her case manager, and WVCS assisted the Jacobsons with PG&E, rent and food," says De Guzman.

Cupertino's Food Pantry supplies more than 2,000 residents every year with fresh food—bread, vegetables, dairy products and staples such as rice, beans, canned and dried goods.

This food comes from Second Harvest Food Bank, local grocery stores, bakeries, the Cupertino Farmers Market and community donations like the Triton Museum of Art's canned food drive.

"We bag and distribute more than $600,000 worth of food yearly," De Guzman says. "Our volunteers pick up, bag and distribute more than 400,000 pounds of food."

During summer months, she said, the pantry has started a program called Fresh Fridays, providing fresh fruit and vegetables for close to 50 families. 

The food pantry is operated by WVCS, a private, nonprofit, community-based agency that serves individuals and families who live in the ZIP codes for Cupertino, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, West San Jose and unincorporated areas.

The pantry also provides baby food, ethnic food and items for those with nutritional restrictions.

"While Second Harvest Food Bank is our primary contributor, we encourage individuals and groups to hold food drives," De Guzman says.

The Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara will have a food drive and offer an incentive for donations—discounts at the museum store for early holiday shoppers.

"This is our second year offering a 1 percent discount for each item brought in (up to 5 percent) for canned goods or other non-perishable food items," says Amanda McDonough, member and visitor services manager. "Museum members are able to add up to an additional 5 percent to their membership's 10 percent discount."

McDonough came up with the discount idea when the museum director, George Rivera asked his staff to think about ways to help the community.

The museum store offers unique, hand-crafted items, from jewelry to hand-painted silk scarves and cards along with ceramics, fine glass and works of art. There is also a wide range of art books, catalogs and children’s art materials.

Triton's food drive discount offer ends Dec. 14.

Suggested donations include meals in a can (stew, chili, soup), tuna and canned meat, peanut butter, canned foods with pop-top lids, low-sugar cereals, 100 percent fruit juices in single serving boxes, canned fruit packed in juice, canned vegetables (low salt), fruit rolls, raisins and other dried fruit, graham crackers, unsweetened applesauce and granola bars (without peanuts).

Since 1973, WVCS has provided family support and housing services in addition to the food pantry.

"We offer transitional housing, financial assistance, clothing and case management," De Guzman says.

Begun as Cupertino Roundup by three public health workers, Harriet Jackson, Julie Venkus and Sue Borgstorm, the central place where people could find information and help served 14 families in the first month of operation in 1973.

"We welcome residents from our service area who provide all required documents needed for their application to demonstrate critical family need," De Guzman said. "For example, they don't have enough income, have had a medical emergency and now have a large medical bill, or are living on an inadequate fixed income." 

The Jacobsons' experience has a happy ending: Two days before Christmas, they were adopted by a generous donor, and their three children received bikes and toys. They also got a Christmas tree donated by a local high school cheerleading team. A month later, Laura found a full-time job, and Jake’s disability benefit was reinstated.

For information of how you can help Cupertino's Food Pantry, contact Tricia Uyeda at 408-255-8033, ext. 102 or email her at triciau@wvcommunityservices.org.

Or, to organize your own food drive, contact De Guzman at 408-255-8033, ext. 305, or email her at jacquelined@swcommunityservices.org.


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