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Cloverdale Food Pantry seeks to restock its shelves

Jean Herschede, left, and MJ Dellaquila hope to refill the shelves of Cloverdale Food Pantry with a "Christmas in June" event. They're shown in the pantry's food storage area. (CRISTA JEREMIASON / The Press Democrat)

MARY JO WINTER , TOWNS CORRESPONDENT

Despite temperatures bumping the century mark, Christmas is almost here for more than 75 families who are served each week by the Cloverdale Food Pantry.

The agency hosts its third annual “Christmas in June” event on Thursday, using the proceeds to restock pantry shelves. Last year’s event brought in $5,900 in cash and about 4.500 pounds of food, 2,700 pounds of which were rice and beans.

Organizers Jean Herschede and MJ Dellaquila expect the evening to once again have a festive atmosphere, complete with a cookie exchange, appetizers, wine and other refreshments.

“We’ll work together to break down the large bags into smaller individuals bags while enjoying the community spirit for which Cloverdale is well known,” said Herschede.

The local nonprofit is an all-volunteer organization run by Cloverdalians for Cloverdalians and receives no outside government assistance. Annual expenses are about $20,000 for things such as rent, insurance, utilities, repairs and food purchased at a discount from the Redwood Empire Food Bank throughout the year to supplement donations.

Pantry chairperson Dellaquila says anyone in need of food can get it at the weekly food distribution, held 1-3 p.m. each Friday. The only criteria is that recipients live in Cloverdale, including those who are homeless.

“Folks may come every week to get dairy products, bread and desserts, juice, eggs and any fresh fruits and vegetables that are available, but they only get a staples bag every four weeks,” said Dellaquila. “The staples bag holds one pound of rice, beans, pasta, box of cereal, cans of tuna, beans, fruit, vegetables and sometimes peanut butter.”

She says the community is generous during the holidays with donations of food and cash, but supplies are dramatically depleted during the summer, making it necessary to dip into cash reserves to purchase food from the Redwood Empire Food Bank

“Our shelves are pretty bare from about late May to the end of October,” Dellaquila said. “We are fortunate to have a dozen or so local gardeners who donate all throughout the year, but most produce comes in the summer months. We are also fortunate to glean from Ray’s Food Place, El Paloma Bakery, Cousteaux Bakery, 7-Eleven at the Shell station and St. Vincent DePaul’s.”

California food safety law AB 1990, which went into effect in January, specifically cites gleaners when it authorizes local governments to require a “community food producer” to register and to label donated food with the name and address of the farm, orchard or garden of origin.

Dellaquila is not sure what impact that regulation will have on the pantry, noting that many of its donations are from local farmers who regularly sell to the farmers markets.

“The family gardeners who drop off fresh produce when they have too much will be the challenge,” she said. “In any case, we cannot and will not require any certifications from our gifters. We don’t require that for our clients and have no plans to put up obstacles for getting fresh healthy food from our other gardeners.”

The Cloverdale Food Pantry was founded in 1989 at the United Church of Cloverdale, with assistance from the First Baptist Church. Originally housed in a small garage on church property that eventually burned down, the pantry has been in its current location on the corner of West Second and Commercial Streets since March 2000.

The board consists of two members each from UCC, First Baptist, St. Peter’s Catholic Church and the Kiwanis Club of Cloverdale. Volunteers from these organizations staff the pantry one month at a time on a rotating basis.

Jerry Huot has been part of the pantry’s volunteer corps since the beginning. Last October, he kept a personal tally to see for himself how many families benefited from the pantry in just one month.

“There were 376 families served,” he said. “If you figure an average of four people per household, that’s more than 1,500 people who had food on their table that month because of the Cloverdale Food Pantry.”

Herschede and Dellaquila encourage everyone to join them in making hunger take a holiday by supporting “Christmas in June” 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Veterans Memorial Building, 205 W. First St., Cloverdale.

In addition to cash, suggested pantry donations include 20 pounds of rice, 20 pounds of beans, and cans or cases of tuna, peanut butter, pasta, dry cereal, tomato products, canned fruit, vegetables and soups.

Those wanting to participate but unable to attend can drop off food items at Exchange Bank, Clover Springs Lodge, Wine Country Real Estate Network in the Furber Plaza, the Cloverdale Library or Cloverdale Cyclery.

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed to Cloverdale Food Pantry, Box 1038, Cloverdale 95425.

For more information, call 393-8383.

Contact Cloverdale Correspondent Mary Jo Winter at Cloverdale.Towns@gmail.com.