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Chico food pantries see increased demand

Edgar Vasquez showing food available at the Iverson Wellness & Recovery Center on Feb. 6, 2024 in Chico, Calif.
Alec Stutson
/
NSPR
Edgar Vasquez showing food available at the Iverson Wellness & Recovery Center on Feb. 6, 2024 in Chico, Calif.

At first glance, the green historic house that sits on the corner of 18th Street and Park Avenue is unassuming. But each month, on the second and fourth Saturdays, it opens its doors as the South Chico Community Assistance Center (SCCAC), a food pantry that serves an average of 120 people per day. Recently, they broke their record.

“We unexpectedly had over 220 people come through the door,” said the center’s founder Rich Ober.

Ober said the rising cost of living – including increased grocery prices – combined with cuts to the statewide CalFresh program, have increased the demand for community food pantries.

He said many people who come to the center take food for their families. Ober estimates the food the center gave out last month probably fed around 500 people.

The center gets fresh produce from local farmers, and shelf stable goods from community donations.

Ober said the biggest challenge to increasing the capacity of the center is space. The house the center operates out of is small. He said they’re looking to build more partnerships to hopefully continue serving as many people as they did last month.

Ober said baking supplies like flour and sugar are needed. Additionally, foods that don’t need to be cooked like peanut butter and canned tuna are helpful for unhoused residents.

Rich Ober, founder of the South Chico Community Assistance Center, discusses increased food demand inside the mostly-empty food pantry on Feb. 6, 2024 in Chico, Calif.
Alec Stutson
/
NSPR
Rich Ober, founder of the South Chico Community Assistance Center, discusses increased food demand inside the mostly-empty food pantry on Feb. 6, 2024 in Chico, Calif.

In response to the rising demand for food assistance, other organizations like the Iversen Wellness & Recovery Center have also begun food pantries.

“Other pantries are also struggling because they've seen a spike in folks needing groceries,’ said program supervisor Edgar Vasquez. “We've sort of stepped up and started offering this service to kind of mitigate that.”

Five months ago, the Iverson Center started its food pantry alongside its existing housing assistance, mental health and addiction recovery programs.

It's currently open once a month on the last Wednesday. It serves around 20-30 people a month.

Both pantries would like to serve more people in the future, but are currently at capacity. They’re always accepting donations.

Alec Stutson grew up in Colorado and graduated from the University of Missouri with degrees in Radio Journalism, 20th/21st Century Literature, and a minor in Film Studies. He is a huge podcast junkie, as well as a movie nerd and musician.