Where Are Food Distribution Volunteers?

September 8, 2009 8:06:32 PM PDT
Only canned goods and food from the United States were handed out at Mendota's bi-monthly food drive Tuesday. Action News reporter John-Thomas Kobos spoke with the director of the Community Food Bank about the controversy surrounding the distribution of foreign food and the ongoing challenge of finding volunteers. Pierce Park. is filled with pallets of food, forklifts and one long line of hungry, jobless residents waiting for supplies to cook their next meal.

Related Links:
Volunteer Sign Up Form
Drought Relief Calendar
Drought Relief Locations

"It helps out a lot. Actually a lot. People are embarrassed to come but once they get the food they're all happy and stuff," said resident Dalila Mejia.

Mejia just moved in with her parents after losing her job as a farm laborer. This is her first time at a food distribution drive.

"Folks here are devastated by the drought and they're experiencing depression," said Dana Wilkie.

Wilkie oversees distribution of this food. Two weeks ago, the state sent her food to distribute from Mexico and China. Congressman Jim Costa complained the food was not purchased locally. By this past weekend the food was returned and the state blamed the snafu on a food supplier.

Wilkie: "All the food that's here, to my knowledge, was made or otherwise manufactured here in the United States."

Now these canned goods are arriving from Sildam Springs, Arizona, and Portales, New Mexico. Here's the sad truth. There's never a shortage of people in line waiting for this food. However, there does continue to be a problem finding volunteers and there has been since this program first started in July. In fact, this line will probably have to shut down hours before it's supposed to.

Wilkie: "These children are hungry and it's so difficult to say to them, 'I'm sorry I can't feed you because I don't have enough volunteers to help me give you the food you need so desperately.'"

In a town of 10,000, where nearly one in three is unemployed, there was only enough food for about 2,000 people.

The Community Food Bank knew it would only have its volunteers until noon. Many families were turned away with an apology.

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