South Bay neighbors stock mini pantries for those in need

A grassroots movement to help those in need-is gaining popularity in the South Bay. The concept is simple. Neighbors stock little pantries with free food.

Tucked hidden in the Cambrian Park neighborhood of San Jose behind the San Jose Clubhouse is a box with a blessing, a symbol of hope.

“We see a lot of vulnerable people now, more and more everywhere you go,” said Chris Daly of San Jose. “I see people everyday living in the cars in the shopping centers. Any little bit can help.”

Started by three women who live in the community, every day neighbors make sure a small wooden cabinet is stocked with nonperishable items and toiletries to help other residents in need without shame or embarrassment.

“We just wanted a way for people to not have to show their income, prove that they need it just it's here if you need it come help yourself,” said Karen Clark of San Jose.

It’s an idea they got from Facebook six months ago. Since then it's taken off. Community groups including students from Leigh High and Union Middle School are now organizing food drives for the pantry. Neighborhood non-profit San Jose Clubhouse donated the property.

“I’m surprised by how many people are offering the food,” said San Jose Clubhouse President Jennifer Freitas.

According to the Loaves & Fishes web site, in the Bay Area, one in four children lives below the poverty line. In Silicon Valley, rents average more than $2,800 a month. A family needs an annual income of more than $114,000 to put food on the table.

In Willow Glen, Tim Espinoza built this pantry by hand last Labor Day. The food in there now is from the community, a testament to the growing support.

“It’s just kind of the right thing to do,” said Espinoza.

“It’s a very small help but it's something to show not only here's some food but here are people really care about you,” said Clark.

There were concerns initially about vandalism and trash but so far, everyone has been respectful. The goal now is other communities will start these pantries in their neighborhood.