Food ministry sees more new faces |

Food ministry sees more new faces

By noon Friday, Interfaith Food Ministry was fresh out of avocados and mushrooms, and running low on most everything else.

If you want the best selection from the nonprofit food pantry, volunteers advise coming early – Interfaith’s client base has swelled since the recession set in.

In August 2009, Interfaith served 2,521 families; this August, the pantry served 2,904, or more than 7,000 people. Nearly a third are children.

Overall, 2010 has been much busier than 2009 – which saw a 9 percent increase over 2008.

“People are out of jobs, or they’ve gone a year having less work and they’re just now realizing they need help,” said Interfaith President Sue Van Son.

Phillip Wilson, 38, showed up at the food pantry for the first time Friday.

His visit came after a few rough weeks – he’s been unable to find renters for a five-bedroom home he owns, and the bills have been piling up.

A computer technician, Wilson moved to western Nevada County from San Francisco two years ago. He’s had trouble finding work.

“I’m worried about losing the house,” Wilson said. “There are lots of stresses on me, and I do yoga to try and stay as centered and as positive as possible.”

He finally reached out to the Nevada County’s social services department, where employees helped him with his utility bills and referred him to the food bank.

“With (Interfaith) here, it minimizes the amount of bills I have to pay,” he said.

He’s looking for a new career, but in the meantime, he’s grateful Interfaith is available to fill the gap.

In the recession, “we all need to come together as a community,” he said.

When clients first come to Interfaith, volunteers ask for two forms of identification and proof that the client lives in Nevada County.

But they don’t ask for proof of income – even though doing so would allow Interfaith to qualify for state funding. The nonprofit operates on donations of cash and food from area faith congregations, service clubs, fundraisers, area grocery stores and generous donors.

“We just want to give people food,” Van Son said. “There’s not a judgment about it. Even if the person comes in a nice car, maybe they just lost their job.”

The influx of clients has strained the ministry. While 400 people donate their time for the organization, the volunteer force as a whole is getting older, Van Son said.

Interfaith is recruiting new helpers.

Pat Riley has volunteered at the pantry for about eight years. She was in the front lobby Friday, helping new clients decide whether they wanted eggs, macaroni, ramen – or all of the above.

A few years ago, giving out 170 packages of food in a day seemed like an impossible feat, Riley said.

This year, they regularly give out 200 or 250 each distribution day.

“It just keeps getting busier,” she said.

Families may receive food from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays. Bags of staples (canned food and dry products) are distributed once a month; perishables are distributed weekly.

Interfaith Food Ministry is at 551 Whiting St., Grass Valley, and can be contacted at and (530) 273-8132.

To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail or call (530) 477-4247.

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