From day one of the stay-at-home order, NVCS has stepped up and answered the bell! North Valley Caring Services has provided groceries to 23,000 San Fernando Valley families through its weekly Drive-Thru Pantry.
When California Gov. Gavin Newsom mandated the safer-at-home order in mid-March of 2020, food pantries were listed as essential services. That week, NVCS was the only pantry to continue serving our SFV community. With so much uncertainty and so little time, NVCS worked tirelessly to transform our weekly walk-in pantry to a drive-thru pantry that was in compliance with the Department of Public Health’s social distancing requirements.
To ensure the safety of our community members, staff and volunteers, NVCS’ Drive-Thru Pantry established contact-free protocols to provide a full-service, grocery loading system for our Drive-Thru Pantry recipients. Recipients must stay inside their vehicles while volunteers place four pre-packaged boxes in their vehicles that have been assembled by food banks and our volunteers. The four set of boxes that are distributed contain meat, dairy, veggies and an assortment of snacks and beverages. This fast-paced process has been mastered by NVCS volunteers, and it allows us to serve a high volume of community members who patiently wait to receive this much-needed aid.
Valley Food Bank Director Will Hernandez, who has been a champion supporter for NVCS food programs even before COVID-19, recognizes the immediate onslaught of need for assistance once the stay-at-home order was placed.
“Partnering with nonprofits and missions in the SFV has become ‘essential businesses’ since the onset of the coronavirus. Organizations without notice were instantly in demand to provide services, not only to marginalized individuals, struggling families, seniors and children but also to individuals and families that have never had to seek assistance. Cadre of volunteers was needed instantly, and food resources and other essentials were depleted from inventories,” said Hernandez.
As a result of COVID-19, unemployment across Los Angeles County has skyrocketed, leaving thousands in our community food insecure. Additionally, those who are most vulnerable, such as our homeless neighbors and elderly friends, are experiencing an even greater disadvantage. In response, NVCS has implemented two additional services: a homeless walk-in “Grab and Go” food pantry and “Groceries to your Door” delivery program for quarantined elderly and families.
“North Hills and other urban type neighborhood residents typically work jobs in the service industry, and that type of work has become sporadic, inconsistent, or even nonexistent. More and more middle-income families are reporting loss of employment. Having children at home carries additional costs as we are all prone to eat more when we are at home. As these families struggle to put food on the table, NVCS’ Pantry has consistently provided balanced groceries to over 1,600+ families a week. The value of this contribution is approximately $100.00; families are now able to apply to their rent or utilities,” said Manny Flores, executive director of NVCS.
All of NVCS’ programs rely heavily on the generous support of our volunteers who are the driving force of our Pantry and its success; whether they’re working in the downpour of April showers or the unforgiving heat of the August sun, their tireless compassion and courage have made an incredible impact. The admirable work NVCS volunteers have done has been showcased by the media and celebrated by our local dignitaries. Since the launch of our Drive-Thru Pantry program, the number of volunteers has grown exponentially. On a weekly basis, NVCS averages 60 volunteers who work on the frontlines either packing and loading grocery boxes or delivering food boxes. These volunteers constantly demonstrate extraordinary bravery and readiness to assist when needed.
We would not be able to provide this essential service to the SFV community without the support of our donors. The assistance of organizations like Mend Poverty, LA Regional Food Bank, Valley Food Bank, Walmart Neighborhood, Children’s Hunger Fund and Food Forward makes it possible for NVCS to serve quarantined seniors and families, district representatives, individuals in sober living homes, LAPD and Marine Corps.
Friday, Sept. 4, 2020 marked the 50th Drive-Thru Pantry since the stay-at-home order was implemented in March. We plan to continue providing these services throughout the remainder of the year and perhaps beyond. All members of the community are welcome to participate in the Drive-Thru Pantry; it is held every Thursday and Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
If you would like to get involved and become a volunteer, please reach out to us either by calling our office at 818-891-0481 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.