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After Arson, River City Food Bank Bounces Back



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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, November 22, 2010
Food Bank Volunteer: "Okay, you're good to go."
Bryant: "Thank you. Where do I go?  Over here?"
Food Bank Volunteer: "Right there, in that line there.  Yes."
Bryant: "Thank you."

Mary Ann Bryant finishes her paperwork and maneuvers her power mobility scooter from one sidewalk table to another.

Bryant: "Are those cinnamon raison bagels there?
Food Bank Volunteer: "No."

The disabled veteran is making her regular monthly stop at the River City Food Bank to pick up supplies.

Food Bank Volunteer: "They're cinnamon, though."
Bryant: "Are they?"
Food Bank Volunteer: "Mm-hmm.  Want 'em?"
Bryant: "Mm-hmm."

But this time, it's different.  The Food Bank's old building, on 27th Street between Capitol and N, is fenced off and boarded up.  Instead, there's a Goodwill truck parked on the street.  Volunteers unload boxes of food, then organize them at a nearby table, and pass them out.

Food Bank Volunteer: "This is yours."
Unidentified Food Bank Client: "Great."
Food Bank Volunteer: "I know, I know. Next time, just bring the ID."
Unidentified Food Bank Client: "I sure will, yes."

Thomas: "It's a huge adjustment, huge adjustment."

Executive Director Eileen Thomas says her food bank can't distribute the fresh meats, produce and dairy products it used to because it doesn't have refrigerators or electricity.  But, as she tells Mary Ann Bryant, it'll still give out whatever fresh goods it purchases on any given day.

Thomas: "So today is Tuesday - it's yogurt day." (laughter)
Bryant: "All right!  Good!"
Thomas: "And green beans, fresh green beans - yay!"

Thomas: "The beauty of it is, is that the clients are still being well-served with the dignity and respect that we've always managed."

Bryant says she was shocked to see the burned-out building, the Goodwill truck on the street, the boxes of food on the sidewalk.  But she says she's so glad the staff and volunteers are hanging in there despite the fire.  Otherwise, she says she'd be in "big trouble."

Bryant: "It's making it harder for the workers, 'cause they don't have the computers to do everything.  But they're being cheerful and doing (it) out of love, I believe, to help us. It's really, really neat."

The food bank is currently working with the city of Sacramento on permits to move across the street, where Sutter Health has offered a temporary home in one of its buildings.  Meanwhile, Thomas says she's enlisted some people to scour the neighborhood for a building fit for a permanent home.

Thomas: "We have never had to build into our budget rent or lease.  And so now we have this whole new challenge as to how we run our operation with that extra expense."
Ben: "Have you started thinking about how you're going to raise the extra revenue?"
Thomas: "That's all we think about!" (laughs)

That's the long-term.  For the short-term, Thanksgiving Week, Thomas says they're doing pretty well in the food department - but there's never really enough during the holiday season.

 

**NOTE: The audio version of this story incorrectly identifies the Food Bank's burned-down building as being on 27th Street between L and Capitol. It's actually on 27th between Capitol and N.

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