Fresno County Drought Relief Food Giveaways

July 30, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Major changes are taking place to the food assistance program designed to help those hardest hit by the Valley's drought. -----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Fresno County Drought Relief Food Giveaways
Program Runs August through October

Huron - 1st and 3rd Thursday - John Palacios Community Center
City of San Joaquin - 1st and 3rd Tuesday - Veterans Memorial Hall
Firebaugh - 2nd and 4th Friday - Maldonado Park
Mendota - 2nd and 4th Tuesday- Rojas Pierce Park
Selma - 2nd and 4th Thursday - Parking lot Across from the Senior Center ? 2301 Selma St.
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On Tuesday, Action News reported on a food giveaway in Mendota where a state agency nearly turned away 2,300-hundred people. The problem: they didn't have papers proving they're victims of the Valley's drought.

Representatives from the Governor's office said the stringent requirements for drought relief in the form of free food have been scrapped.

For the last two days the State Department of Social Services scrambled to find a solution after Valley leaders complained they were insensitive for wanting to turn away thousands of people who didn't have the right papers.

Now, all you'll need is proof you live in Fresno County and your word.

Fresno County Supervisor Phil Larson was outraged when representatives from the State's Emergency Food Assistance Program wanted to send home 2,300 people waiting in a food line because they didn't have the right papers.

Community Food Bank President Dana Wilkie said, "That just goes against the mission of the food bank and it goes against my heart."

The state wants to make sure those getting "drought relief" really have been laid off or can't find work because of the water shortage. Initially, everyone needed proof of where they live, plus an employment check stub or letter from an employer stating they lost their job because of the drought.

But Larson said no one in the Mendota food line Tuesday knew that and that common sense should have prevailed in a town where almost half the population is out of work. "If they had a job they wouldn't be standing in food lines."

This is the time of year that agriculture works. Many farm workers said they travel hundreds of miles for work in vans with other migrant workers because they don't have a car. So getting a letter from a former employer in a distant town would be a challenge at best.

Thursday afternoon, state authorities made serious changes. Now, the only thing needed is a photo id showing the person lives in Fresno County.

Community Food Bank President Dana Wilkie confirmed that representatives from the governor's office will be at next week's food giveaways. She hopes they'll see it's not just farmers and their workers suffering from the drought.

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