"The need in the community has increased dramatically"
The national economic downturn has made it necessary for millions of Americans to reevaluate their lifestyles and, in many cases, seek financial assistance or help putting food on the table. The Pacifica Resource Center is responding to those needs.
In August of this year, food subsidies provided by the center (via the on-site food pantry, produce mobile or bread program) were given to 627 people. The same month a year ago, only 281 people were provided food assistance.
"The need in the community has increased dramatically given the downturn of the economy. It has really trickled down to the people in our community," said Anita Rees, the Executive Director of the Pacifica Resource Center.
With a limited staff, the center had previously been unable to open the Food Pantry to such a large number of people. Recently, however, the center has been able to expand its staff slightly and can now increase the services it provides.
To meet this increased need the center has taken on two case managers, bringing the current staff total to four. At the same time a year ago, the center only employed one staff person in addition to the Rees, who took over as executive director in January last year.
Food donations and funding, mainly from Pacifica community members, the City of Pacifica, San Mateo County and other government grants have made possible the additional staff and an increased offering of services.
The resource center provides more than just food subsidies to residents. Because there are no shelters in Pacifica, the center serves as a venue for housing assitance programs in the area and can direct those in need to other non-profits in the county. Those services are in more demand than ever before, as well, said Rees.
"For housing assistance there is absolutely a greater need than what we have the capacity to serve," says Rees. "We never have the ability to provide housing services to everybody… but we try really hard."
There are eligibility requirements to qualify for any of the drop-in food programs, such as Pacifica residency.
In addition to residency requirements, Rees says, "We also look at the size of the household, where a person lives and determine what amount of money a person needs to make to not need any subsidy."
These requirements are referred to as the "Self-sufficiency Standard", which makes a region-by-region assessment of poverty. Rees says this is a more accurate assessment tool than the federal poverty guidelines, which measures the national average of annual income, because the cost of living varies by region.
When to Go
Every Tuesday, anyone in need can visit the center to pick-up bread which is donated by a Half Moon Bay Safeway location.
Every Wednesday and Thursday, the local farmer's market donates fresh produce to the pantry.
Check the resource center's website for more information about the monthly "Produce Mobile" event, a free farmers market for any low-income Pacifican sponsored in part by Second Harvest food bank. Call to make appointments for rental assistance if you are at risk of becoming homeless or need emergency shelter placement.
Donations and volunteers needed
Food donations and volunteers are essential to keep the Food Pantry at Pacifica Resource Center running.
"The more volunteers we have helping in the pantry, the less the staff has to use our time to do some of that work," says Rees.
Though Rees admits that volunteer opportunities at the center are currently few, she is working to increase volunteer engagement.
With the holiday season approaching, the center is preparing for an annual adopt-a-family program which asks for the Pacifica community to anonymously donate items from the wish list of a family in financial need.
The center is also seeking volunteers to organize anticipated holiday donations to the pantry, as well as tax-preparers for a free tax workshop in January.