National Guard members assist Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano

With so many volunteers sheltering at home the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano counties needed to call in the cavalry.

The cavalry came Wednesday in the form of the California National Guard.

Thirty members of the guard helped box up meals and fill bags of produce in a warehouse in Fairfield.

"I never thought my unit would get deployed to a food bank," said Staff Sgt. Jacklyn Collins of San Francisco. But she says she can see why.

This is the third food bank her unit has worked.

"I feel I've been exposed to different parts of the food bank, which is really opening my eyes to how many people to how many people we are actually serving," says Collins. 

"We are so thankful to have the national guard with us," says Joel Sjostrom, president of the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano Counties.

Social distancing is a challenge there. But Collins says each member of the guard has their temperature taken daily.

"Every morning we are screened before we are deployed on our mission. It gives us an added level of comfort we are checked on regularly," said Collins.

The food is loaded onto trucks and distributed to pantries and other distribution points including  the True Love Baptist Church in Fairfield, where the parents of three, now out-of-school children, came by.

"They want to eat every few hours. It's been really hard. This kind of thing is helping a lot," said Esteban Simental of Fairfield.

The food bank says it's seen about a third of its volunteers drop out because of the coronavirus. At the same time the need for food has increased by 50%.

"We've been working with the schools in seven different districts as they are handing out some of the school lunch programs, we are adding these products to that distribution," said Sjostrom. 

Governor Gavin Newsom called on the National Guard to help the food banks. The San Francisco-Marin Food Bank is hoping to get the guard in its warehouse by Friday.

It's really hitting home how impactful our help is around California," said Collins.
The National Guard is expected to work at the Contra Costa-Solano Food Bank every day for the next three weeks.