This year’s Pandemic has affected everyone in some way, but for some families, it was the precipitating factor that led to experiencing food insecurity for the first time. This summer, Family Services started receiving calls from clients who did not qualify for food stamps, but whose income had been affected by loss of work or other Pandemic-related factors. They were having trouble putting food on the table for the first time, and didn’t have experience navigating the services they needed to feed their families.
Besides referring these families to ongoing food resources throughout the County, Family Services also began partnering with CityServe TulareKings to distribute USDA Farmers to Families food boxes. Many hands and hearts go into each distribution, with CityServe and Seven Oaks Church receiving the food boxes from the USDA, the Pony Express (a group of volunteers from Woodlake’s Sequoia Hills Stables) transporting the boxes in their trailers to Family Services, and dozens of Family Services staff and volunteers coordinating and driving the boxes to hundreds of individual households.
“Doing large-scale food distributions is not a common activity for Family Services. Given the current circumstances our families find themselves in - that isolation can be very dangerous for the families we serve,” said Caity Meader, Family Services’ CEO. This is the good and right thing for us to help families meet their basic needs and staying in connection with our clients.”
Audriana Freberg, Family Services’ Clinical Manager for Children’s Services, has helped organize the distributions and recognizes the importance of helping families meet their basic needs first. “If people aren’t getting fed, there’s not much you can do to help them in other areas,” she said. “We’re not going to get anywhere with them in counseling if their basic needs aren’t met.”
Rebecca Peter and Julia Castro, two other Family Services managers who have taken the lead on organizing the distributions, have had clients reach out to say how much the food box delivery has meant to them.
“A client called me and said, ‘I knew Family Services cared about me, but now I know how much.’ We’re not just interested in helping them with our regular services, but we’re asking them what they really need to feel safe and then providing that,” said Rebecca. “They feel supported in a way they haven’t felt before.”
Julia knows clients appreciate being treated with dignity. “They’re not used to having people or agencies take that extra step for them. Nobody needs to be kicked when they’re down, and they’re always treated with dignity and respect from our staff.”
“There’s also something relational about sharing food with someone,” Audriana added. “It’s very nurturing. It says ‘I see you.’”
“It’s work from the heart,” said Julia.