Needy in San Joaquin Receive Food

August 18, 2009 8:01:17 PM PDT
The lack of water and high unemployment rates have dried up the economies of many towns on the Valley's west side.In the town of San Joaquin drought relief came in the form of free food. West side families rely on the Ag economy. But the water supply isn't the only shortage affecting their lives.

Idled fields and idle machinery means there is no work. San Joaquin is struggling with a 34-percent jobless rate.

Iletta Robinson said, "I'm on unemployment. My husband works for Britz but because there's no water they cut his hours completely down so we have no food in the ice box at all."

Three-thousand people had no choice but to patiently wait in a long line for a state drought relief food giveaway. The line snaked all the way around Veteran's Memorial Hall.

Angie Salinas of San Joaquin said, "It's been hard because I got laid off from my job. I was a caregiver." Salinas says she can stretch this food to feed her family of five for two weeks.

Some 120 volunteers helped cart away and load up about 160-thousand pounds of food. But Community Food Bank CEO Dana Wilkie said twice as many helpers were needed. Wilkie explained, "The volunteers have been great but it's just not enough. In fact, today we could have served more people if we had more volunteers in the afternoon and I hate to turn people away."

Chamber of Commerce head Stanley Bulla was keeping a close eye on the water hearing in Sacramento. He says what happens in San Joaquin is felt around the state. You'll pay more for some groceries. Bulla said, "Everything is a domino effect. The loss of the water. Loss of jobs. Loss of food. It's going to cost us in the long run."

People here are grateful for the food, but they'd much rather have steady work. Garlic, tomatoes, almonds and lettuce are all grown in the San Joaquin area. Some have found work but a third of the people there are unemployed.

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