South Valley food bank suffers after several recent burglaries

EXETER, Calif. (KFSN) -- Since FoodLink Tulare County moved to Exeter a few years ago, they've been plagued with theft and vandalism.

The problem has been worse recently, to the point where it's interfering with the non-profit's important work.

"From the beginning, we have had garden tools stolen, we've had an entire greenhouse stolen," said FoodLink Executive Director Nicole Celaya.

In just the last 30 days, Celaya says the non-profit's surveillance system has caught three separate burglaries on camera.

In two instances, thieves stole fuel from food bank vehicles-twice cutting the fuel line of a truck that makes food deliveries throughout the county.

FoodLink has a small fleet and delivers 75 percent of food to its member agencies.

With a truck out of commission, Celaya says some food pantries were forced to postpone food distributions, affecting hundreds of people who depend on the non-profit for healthy food.

"We have a really strict schedule of how to get deliveries out and make sure that we're distributing all the food on time," Celaya said. "And so if we can't use the truck, it throws the whole month off."

A local company, Western Milling, volunteered to fix the damaged fuel line for FoodLink, and the truck is on the road again.

But in another break-in, thieves smashed the driver's side window of another truck and stole some of its components.

Luckily, the truck isn't being used to make deliveries yet, and Celaya is hopeful someone will step up to cover the cost of repairs.

Last weekend, FoodLink installed additional fencing out back.

And Celaya says they may partner with an off-site security company, but they could use some help.

"Whether it's helping us with our security or to help us cover the cost of the fence, that would be greatly, greatly appreciated," she said. "Any help that people can offer is always welcome."
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