Once each month Modesto Christian Reformed Church turns its social hall into a grocery store.
Volunteers from the church come together to unload pallets, sort items into boxes, and offer the food to families in need.
Nearly 30 volunteers distribute canned fruits, vegetables and meat, boxed goods, and juice. The United States Department of Agriculture provides the food, which varies from month to month.
“The Salvation Army Food Bank is the storage and supply house for these commodities,” said Carol Slager, director of congregational life and education for the church.
Modesto CRC distributes the food to families in three zip codes. Clients sign in and receive a card that indicates they’ve collected food that month. The amount of food depends on the size of each family. “It used to be that people had to show proof of address and income and how many were in their family. Now they simply have to show us they live in the zip code, and it’s an honor system,” said Slager.
The church has ministered to the community this way for more than three decades. Started as a cheese give-away in the 1970s, the program has grown exponentially in the past few years, said Laura van Oostende, a member of Modesto CRC who heads it.
In 2009 the program averaged 175 boxes for 375 people. So far in 2011 the church has distributed 250 boxes for more than 600 people each month.
Van Oostende said she has been overwhelmed by the number of volunteers as the church responds to this need in the community. Volunteer Don Leensvaart said, “I [worked in] groceries for years, and now I’m here. It’s a social event.”