The youth organized and run Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Emergency Food Pantry officially opened for food distributions in January 2021 with the mission of providing families experiencing food insecurity on the western slope of El Dorado County with nourishing food and nutrition education. The Emergency Food Pantry distributes food, including dry goods, meat, and produce, bi-monthly by referral only from the Hands4Hope Placerville Youth Center. It is currently serving 20-25 families at each distribution with a goal of serving 40 families at each distribution by December.
During these unprecedented times, providing meals is more important than ever. Covid 19 caused schools to shut down along with school breakfast and lunch programs. The Emergency Food Pantry is working to help fill this food insecurity gap that was originally being filled by the El Dorado County Office of Education (EDCOE) Emergency Food Pantry that opened at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, then was forced to close in July 2020. “I cannot tell you what relief it has given me to know this is coming. The need is ongoing and every additional support makes such a huge difference for these families,” noted Margaret Lewis, Homeless Youth Coordinator, EDCOE.
Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference youth participants were able to recognize this critical community need and address it quickly using real world problem-solving and leadership skills. They determined what needed to be done, put processes in place, and each month will be responsible for collecting donations, running the food fulfillment process, and organizing and coordinating food distribution events. This is a valuable and tangible way to cultivate civic minded and socially responsible citizens, which is at the heart of what Hands4Hope is about. “This project seemed daunting at first, but I loved working with the rest of the committee to slowly plan everything out and eventually see everything come together,” said Jennifer Cole, Emergency Food Pantry Committee Co-Chair and high school sophomore. “We sometimes had problems that we hadn’t even thought of, such as how we were going to find out about recalled food, but by working together and with other organizations, we were able to overcome every challenge and create a working food pantry.”
The Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Emergency Food Pantry Committee is currently composed of six youth participants from El Dorado, Oak Ridge, and Vista Del Lago High Schools, three adult mentors, including one from El Dorado County SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education, and two staff advisors. This committee is partnering with EDCOE, Placerville Union School District, El Dorado County SNAP-Ed Nutrition Education, Placer Food Bank, and Twin Lakes Food Bank to create, stock, and run this pantry, as well as identify those most in need of food assistance.
Currently all referrals to the Hands4Hope - Youth Making A Difference Food Pantry come from EDCOE, but as resources grow, the committee expects to be able to accept referrals from additional partner agencies. Since opening in January, the pantry has distributed approximately 1,850 pounds of food. The pantry was originally stocked with 3,000 pounds of food collected during the Hands4Hope - Youth Making a Difference Fall Food Roundup last September.
Understanding that the Hands4Hope Emergency Food Pantry is supporting families from local schools, some school districts and schools have stepped up to help. In December, El Dorado Union High School District held a drive and collected 683 pounds of food and in February, Buckeye Elementary collected 913 pounds of food and Gold Trail Elementary collected 469 pounds of food. Vista Del Lago High School and Folsom High School are currently holding food drives that will wrap up at the end of Spring Break. Local businesses have jumped in to help as well. In March, El Dorado Hills CrossFit collected 199 pounds of food through a drive held at their gym, and in April and May, Placerville Home Depot will be hosting a drive.
Food and cash donations are always appreciated. To donate food, please watch our social media pages for upcoming drives or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Monetary donations allow the committee to purchase needed food at a greatly reduced price from the Placer Food Bank and can be made anytime at hands4hopeyouth.org, just note Food Pantry in the donation memo. Checks should be made out to Hands4Hope, memo Food Pantry, and mailed to 3941 Park Drive, Suite 20-264, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762.