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By Mike Hazlip–
Sunrise Christian Food Ministry volunteers began giving out Thanksgiving meals to a line-up of cars in Citrus Heights Wednesday morning, but about four hours later, almost all of the canned goods had been handed out, and not enough food items remained for a complete meal.
A non-stop parade of vehicles kept volunteers busy handing out bags of canned goods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and turkeys to families in need. Organizer Rocky Peterson estimates he has seen a 30% to 40% increase in families needing essential food items this year.
“We’re all out of produce, all out of bread products, all out of turkeys, all out of canned foods. We’re closing early because of the lack of food supplies,” Peterson said early Wednesday afternoon.
Volunteers typically keep the ministry going until about 3 p.m., but they were turning people away by 1 p.m. Wednesday.
Peterson said increased demand is due to a combination of factors: limited food bank options in the area amid COVID-19, and heightened demand before Thanksgiving as the ministry was giving out turkeys.
The biggest factor however has been the ripple effect of the COVID-19, according to Peterson. He estimates about 30% of the people coming to the ministry are doing so for the first time. He has supplied food to many younger families who have not been in need before.
Others coming to the food pantry are older parents with adult children. Peterson said some parents have found their needs changed overnight as their adult children move back in and bring their families along. Individuals who might normally be self-sufficient suddenly find they can’t feed everyone in the household, according to Peterson.
Peterson said they are serving over 250 families each day and he estimates that represents about 700 to 800 individuals. That demand is depleting the ministry’s resources: “Our food supply has reduced considerably by now,” he said.
People coming to the Sunrise Christian Food Ministry’s food closet are generally grateful, and some turn around to offer help in return. Aron Briggs said he came to get food for Thanksgiving and wanted to help those helping him.
“He’s kind enough to give me food, why not return the favor?” Biggs said. “You guys are out here all day worrying about us to make sure we get food, that says a lot.”
Peterson says it isn’t unusual to see people come to the ministry for food, then return and volunteer.
Sunrise Food Ministry is accepting food items and monetary donations. Peterson said they are currently out of canned tomato sauce, canned diced tomatoes, canned beans, peanut butter, and dried goods such as beans and rice. The ministry’s cereal supply is also running low.
Monetary donations can be made online at sunrisechristianfoodministry.org. Donations of food items can be brought to the ministry behind Advent Lutheran Church, 5901 San Juan Ave. The food pantry’s regular hours are 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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