Our Valley's geography can be a challenge when trying to meet the basic needs of residents that live outside the City of Napa. Fifteen years ago, St. Helena Community Food Pantry (SHFP) set up shop in order to help low-income residents in that community have enough to eat. The all-volunteer-run nonprofit distributes food year-round out of a pantry that is open three days a week and is located on the grounds of a St. Helena church (SHFP is not a program of the church).
Today, low-income residents from Yountville to Calistoga can access the pantry's bounty one time per week to pick up fresh produce or other perishable items, like milk. Canned goods, cereals, beans and other non-perishables are given out once a month.
SHFP's inventory is donated by local groceries, like Sunshine Market and Safeway, as well as youth groups that run canned-food drives. During summer and autumn, local residents with fruit and vegetable gardens donate their surplus produce to the pantry. Certain staple items, like milk, potatoes, carrots and onions, need to be purchased at discounted bulk prices from the Napa Valley Food Bank program or local markets.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) uses SHFP as a distribution channel for its subsidized food program, as well, but in the last year reduced provisions by 50 percent; it also eliminated important, nutritious items like cheese from the menu.
SHFP has 40 active volunteers that gather food donations from around town, bring them to the pantry site and assemble a grocery box of items for each household. The number of items in each box depends on family size. Last year, 260 families (representing more than 800 adults and children) accessed SHFP--nearly double the number served in 2010. SHFP's entire client base is low-income and resides up Valley; 10 percent of households served have an unemployed adult and 16 percent are elderly--a number that has been steadily increasing.
SHFP's annual operating budget is roughly $30,000. Food purchases represent less than half of total expenses, and the balance goes toward paying insurance, janitorial service, utilities, as well as food-handling licenses and permits. Eight SHFP volunteer board members, who meet four times a year, raise money from individual donors to cover annual expenses.
This year, a $2,500 gap needs to be filled. Your support would help low-income, up Valley residents have enough nutritious food to eat all year round.
St. Helena Community Food Pantry
1777 Main Street, P.O. Box 108
St. Helena, CA 94574
Contact: Connie Kay, Board Vice President