Coronavirus kindness: South Bay organizations team up for drive-thru food distribution amid pandemic

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the midst of the novel coronavirus crisis, many families now have a desperate need to put food on the table. Local organizations are doing their part to help, but it hasn't been easy as demand grows on a weekly basis.

"You know that this is important sustenance for them every week," said San Jose resident Tulin Melton, who spent Wednesday afternoon volunteering at a drive-thru food distribution site at St. Martin of Tours Parish. "It's really hard to see the diversity of the people coming through and what they need."

Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County has been coordinating weekly distributions at seven parishes throughout the South Bay.

Melton added, "You see the families coming through with lots of small children or cars coming through with multiple families in one vehicle, and then you see the people who are new this week, who are uncertain and are not sure of the process."

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The St. Martin giveaway had enough food boxes for up to 750 families, but organizers expected the demand to be greater.

"It's hard to see when cars are broken down, it's only going to get worse," said Araceli Gonzales, a program manager with Catholic Charities. "Right now we have to think when people start not having enough money for gas."

Second Harvest of Silicon Valley is now preparing up to 20,000 boxes of food a day for community partners to distribute.

"We are doing all we can to bring in the food that folks need, to be able to get it out to these drive-thru sites, and it really takes all of us coming together to be able to make this happen," said Second Harvest chief executive officer Leslie Bacho.

This week, the food bank is getting a lift from the 144 Fighter Wing of the California Air National Guard, based out of Fresno.

"Whether it's working at a food bank or natural disaster, the fires... a lot of these members have been deployed to the fires last year, a lot of these members have been deployed overseas," said Lt. Col. Lennie Lujan, who described his team members' commitment to the community.

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As daunting the task, there's a feeling of hope as the airmen do their part in the battle against COVID-19.

"Each day we celebrate that win, what are we doing to provide food for everybody in the area and why are we doing it," said Master Sgt. Sophia Rodriguez. "That's what is really driving the passion behind the work that's happening here."

Catholic Charities says the food drives are on a first-come, first-serve basis. Recipients will need to register on-site in their vehicles.

"I think there's this kindness and gentleness and willingness to support one another, that's really important," said Catholic Charities chief executive officer Gregory Kepferle.

Church location/date and time of food distribution

  • Our Lady of Peace - Santa Clara (Monday, 10am to noon)
  • Our Lady of Refuge - San Jose (Tuesday, 5pm to 7pm)
  • Most Holy Trinity - San Jose (Tuesday, TBD)
  • St. Martin of Tours - San Jose (Wednesday, 1pm to 4pm)
  • St. John Vianney - San Jose (Thursday, 9am to 11am)
  • St. Lucy - Campbell (Friday, 10am to 12pm)
  • Santa Teresa Parish - San Jose (Saturday, 12pm to 2pm)

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