Grant will help fight food insecurity in southwest Fresno

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A food distribution program is expanding in southwest Fresno with the help of a $1 million grant.

Kaiser Permanente is providing a grant to help build the St. Rest + Food-to-Share Hub, a collaboration between St. Rest Baptist Church and Fresno Metro Ministry.

It will be an expansion of Fresno Metro Ministry's Food to Share program.

Food to Share volunteers drive around the community, making daily stops at their local partners to pick up unused or excess food.

"At first, I didn't know what to expect," shared lead driver Vue Vang. "As I started seeing the need and seeing how much food is going to waste, that's when I found my passion."

Vue Vang is one of four drivers for Fresno Metro Ministry's Food to Share program, and six years later, she couldn't see herself doing anything else.

"I enjoy what I do every day," she said.

After all the daily pick-ups, Vang drops off the pounds of food at a local organization that can put it to good use. Today it was St. Martha's Food Pantry in Clovis.

Vang has seen the need for food in the community increase during the pandemic, and that's why she's excited for the Food to Share program to expand.

"I can't wait until it's done," Vang said.

The church building on Elm and Reverend Chester Riggins Avenues will be transformed into a distribution center for the program.

"This facility, alone, is probably gonna allow us to double or triple the number of pallets because the warehouse gives us capacity to bring in larger loads of recoveries," explained Keith Bergthold, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministry.

Organizers said the program would result in the annual recovery of more than a million pounds of food that would otherwise be wasted. It will then be given to families in need.

"It is a food desert in the middle of the richest food-producing region in the world," said Bergthold.

The warehouse is one piece of a bigger puzzle to fight food insecurity.

Fresno Metro Ministry and St. Rest Baptist Church also plan to build a two-story building next door, with a kitchen and classrooms to teach cooking classes.

"Giving out food is one thing, but then teaching them how to make the food that we give out is something totally different," said Pastor DJ Criner, with St. Rest Baptist Church.

Pastor Criner said these are resources southwest Fresno has been without for far too long.

Now we have an opportunity of bringing a holistic service to a community that has been desperate and in need of it for generations," he said.

Construction on the food distribution warehouse is expected to begin next month and be done by August.

The construction of the second building will then take place and be completed by March of 2023.

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