Food Bank Serves 4,000 Plus in San Joaquin

August 4, 2009 6:23:10 PM PDT
Being hungry has become all too familiar for 22 year old Maria Ochoa. She said, "My parents don't get a lot of pay. Sometimes we need food, sometimes we don't have any." When we caught up with her and her uncle half way through the San Joaquin food giveaway line, they had already been waiting two hours. She was prepared to wait even longer. One word sums up how she feels about needing a government handout. "Embarrassed. I'm very embarrassed." But the alternative, not eating at all, is not an option. So she waits just behind 75 year old Francisco Nunez. His reason for being in the food line? He said, "Falta del agua." The former field worker told me the lack of water in the west Fresno County town has changed life as everyone knew it. In his house, they eat one meal a day.

Amarpreet Dhaliwal, the Mayor San Joaquin said, "Our unemployment rate is in the mid 30's." So he is grateful the state quickly revised what some called rules too restrictive to help drought relief victims.

Community Food Bank President Dana Wilkie said, "Last week it was so frustrating for folks. They didn't understand what was required of them." Wilkie told Action News the state almost sent hundreds of people in Mendota home without food because they didn't have papers proving they were affected by the drought.

Gary Grayson, with the Governor's office denies anyone would have been turned away but agreed the requirements needed changing. "We saw that it wasn't working." After several conference calls between Sacramento and Fresno's Community Food Bank the state made several changes but wanted a state representative at the food distribution site just in case there were any problems.

Now, all that's needed is an id that says you live in Fresno County and a statement saying how you're affected by the drought. Grayson said, "It makes a difference to see in person the impact and to hear firsthand the issues people are having."

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