The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened economic insecurity nationwide, and many families struggle to afford food items and other daily necessities. Thankfully, many local programs exist to serve low-income individuals and families in precarious situations through various services and material support. LaKesha Roberts, the Associate Director of the Ecumenical Hunger Program, said, “When COVID-19 first hit, we went from serving 1,000–12,000 families a month to serving 1,000–12,000 families a week.”

Here are three places M-A Bears can visit locally for food, clothing, and other services.

Ecumenical Hunger Program

2411 Pulgas Ave, East Palo Alto

The Ecumenical Hunger Program (EHP) in East Palo Alto provides food and other services to the community. Especially notable are its programs for children—EHP serves children at milestones in their lives, whether that be through supplying their back-to-school backpacks, hosting holiday events, or sending staff to attend their graduation. Contact [email protected] to inquire about these services. EHP also distributes food to the community. Roberts said, “Our Emergency Food Boxes for those in special circumstances last approximately three days. We include cereal, rice, beans, chili or soup, and other snacks or pre-packaged food. In addition to the food box, we give meat, eggs, milk, and fresh produce.” These food boxes are available to those with proper verification every weekday from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm and 2:30 pm 

to 4:30 pm, except for Thursday. Similarly, EHP’s Pack the Bag program provides nutritional, easy-to-prepare food to students to last over the weekend. EHP also provides a community closet for household items, clothing walk-in closet, produce distribution, and bread distribution. For details (hours, address, and acceptable verification) about these programs, click here.

St. Anthony's Padua Dining Room

3500 Middlefield Rd, Menlo Park

St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room also provides food to those in need. It is easily accessible for M-A families as it is located right down the street, at 3500 Middlefield Road. Chair of the Advisory Council Rickey Ono said, “Our soup kitchen is unique because more families come to St. Anthony’s, whereas other soup kitchens often serve an older population and more homeless people.” The Dining Room provides hot meals, typically with some groceries, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm on Monday through Saturday, free women’s and children’s clothing on the first and third Wednesday each month from 10:00 am to 11:00 am, and men’s clothes on the first and third Thursdays of each month from 10:00

am – 11:00 am. Ono said, “Due to the pandemic, the Clothing Distribution Center operates twice a month, but if there’s anybody in urgent need of clothing, a sleeping bag, or maybe baby products, we provide it to them.” St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room previously provided annual flu shots and some medical services to those without insurance, although the program has not resumed yet due to the pandemic. Although the Dining Room is affiliated with St. Anthony’s Catholic Church, Ono said, “​​We operate independently, and there’s no religious affiliation that we require. Anyone that comes to us for help, we try to help them and don’t ask questions.” For details on St. Anthony’s Padua Dining Room, visit their website here.

All Saints’ Food Closet

425 Hamilton Avenue, Palo Alto

A long-time volunteer at the All Saints’ Food Closet in Palo Alto, Shirley Rieter, described the experience of going to the closet as, “coming to the grocery store and having your bag filled, without having to pay a penny.” Something to note about the Food Closet, is that it does not serve people under 18 unless they come with an adult. Rieter said, “If two parents come, they both can register to come and get food.” Masked and gloved volunteers at the Food Closet ask shoppers what they would like; they have their choice of protein, soup, bread, canned fruit, rice, dry beans, fresh eggs and produce, and other miscellaneous products. The Food Closet also is able to deliver groceries to house-bound people, such as those with disabilities. Rieter said, “We see the same people almost every day. For some elders, this is their only outing. So they come almost every day, they see their friends there, and they talk with the volunteers.”

Sheryl Chen

Sheryl Chen is a junior and in her second year in journalism. She hopes to expand her knowledge on issues pertinent to M-A and the local community. She is also a member of M-A's debate team.

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