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Catholic Voice
February 4, 2013   •   VOL. 51, NO. 3   •   Oakland, CA
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Delta-area food pantry
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The Delta Christian Community Food Pantry supplies 150 bags of groceries a week to families in Byron and Knightsen.
Delta Christian Community Food Pantry for CRS

Burkina Faso. East Timor. Lesotho. The Dominican Republic. Pakistan. The Diocese of Oakland.

Catholic Relief Services projects are featured on the poster that accompanies the familiar small cardboard Rice Bowl that is a staple of Lent for parishes and schools across the United States, including 65 in the Diocese of Oakland.

This year, a project that is close to home is featured. During the sixth week of Lent, the focus is on the Delta Christian Community Food Pantry. Members of St. Anne Parish in Byron, Delta Community Presbyterian Church in Discovery Bay and Byron United Methodist Church joined forces in 2010 to feed the hungry and offer information and referrals to individuals and families in Eastern Contra Costa County.

"Every year we feature a U.S. program," said Susan Walters, communications officer for Catholic Relief Services. Walters said the Rice Bowl staff consults with its regional coordinators across the country to find a program to highlight.

The focus on a U.S. program brings home the point that while 75 percent of the funds raised for Rice Bowl go to international projects, 25 percent of the proceeds are put to use on projects in the United States.

Part of the message in highlighting a domestic program, Walters said, is to show that "all hunger's the same."

Rice Bowl


Delta Christian Community Food Pantry
c/o St. Anne Parish
P.O. Box 476
Byron CA 94514
Attn: Karen Randle
"At its core," Walters said, "Rice Bowl is a faith formation program." The Rice Bowl program, with its weekly reflections, educational component and recipes, offers "a very tangible lesson to connect their spirituality." It's a way, she said, for people "to bring what they hear on Sunday to their home."

Marc McKimmey of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, who coordinates Catholic Relief Services efforts locally, said the members of the local Rice Bowl committee looked at the organizations in the diocese that receive Rice Bowl grants.

In December 2012, checks totaling more than $25,000 were given to two dozen groups that feed the hungry in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. More than a dozen were St. Vincent de Paul groups affiliated with parishes.

The Delta Christian Community Food Pantry does very important work in a "very needy area," he said. That the food pantry is an ecumenical effort, involving several churches, as well as community gardens operated at two of the parishes, made it a nominee from this area.

Karen Randle, a parishioner at St. Anne and one of the founders of the Delta Christian Community Food Pantry, said the volunteers are honored to be in the Rice Bowl materials. The volunteers are now packing 150 bags of groceries each week, and distributing them not only in Byron, but have expanded operations to Knightsen, in far eastern Contra Costa County.

St. Vincent de Paul recently provided 150 coats for volunteers to distribute in these cold winter months. "They're gone," Randle said. "People are grateful." Parishioners at the three churches donate clean, usable clothes, which the food pantry put out on food distribution days for the clients.

"God watches out for us," she said. "We have a lot of blessings."

With a crew of 50 volunteers at three churches, and five dedicated drivers, the Delta Christian Community Food Pantry volunteers operate on a lean budget of less than $15,000 a year. Donations from service organizations and community events help fill the pantry, as do donations from individuals. "At Christmastime we were very blessed," Randle said.

Volunteer drivers pick up donated food from Safeway and Fresh & Easy, as well as purchases from the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano. Stores supply bread, pastries and produce nearing the end of its shelf life. Some produce comes from the food bank.

"Meat is hard to get," Randle said. "When you buy 150 chickens, it gets expensive."

At St. Anne Parish, there is a collection every three months for the St. Vincent de Paul Society, which, Randle said, "helps these same people" with rent and utilities. "They always get food, too," she said.

"There's a huge need," she said. "A lot of these people are not working," she said of the agricultural community the food pantry serves.

A family of nine — five of them children — live in a trailer, she said. "Mom cooks on a hot plate," she said. A Safeway corporate office group helped out, collecting enough to get a her a stove. "God is good," Randle said.

A donation jar is on the table when recipients come to pick up food. At the end of the day, there might be nickels and pennies in it.

The food pantry began in 2010, when people who served the poor asked each other: What do you do when people come to your church and ask for food?

Some answered that they went home and took food from their own pantries; others made a trip to the supermarket.

They found, Randle said, that there was "no consistent method to take care of people."

After meeting with ministers of the churches, volunteers conducted a demographic study that included how many school children receive free or reduced-price school breakfast and lunch. They found 919.

In addition to food and donated clothing, they offer resources for medical care and housing, when asked.

"The face of hunger has no religion," Randle said. "We don't ask, Are you Catholic? Are you Methodist? Are you Presbyterian? We never turn anyone away."

In Byron, they serve 50 to 75 families weekly; in Knightsen 70 to 75. About 750 families have registered with the food pantry.

Every Monday at St. Anne Parish, volunteers fill 150 grocery bags for distribution the next day in Byron and Knightsen.

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