Due to the COVID-19 epidemic, almost all Contra Costa County schools are now closed for the protection of students. Despite this, White Pony Express (WPE), the food rescue nonprofit based in Pleasant Hill, will continue to deliver food to students and families being served by WPE’s “School Food Pantry Program.”
Under this Program, WPE has been delivering fresh, surplus food to eleven free-lunch schools in the county. Since the schools are now closed, WPE will deliver the food to a nearby community center or church where families can still obtain it. Many of these families rely on this food to make ends meet.
Need for School Food Pantry Programs
Over 100,000 students in Contra Costa County, or 40%, qualify for the free- lunch program. The goal of the School Pantry Program is to help eliminate hunger and increase students’ academic success so they can contribute more fully to the communities in which they live. Helen Jones, WPE’s Food Rescue Operations Manager says, “The families we serve through this program have demanding challenges throughout the month. Many of the participants receive food stamps which only cover a portion of a month’s worth of food. The food that WPE provides to the schools we serve not only provides nutrition. It provides hope.”
Currently, WPE’s eleven school pantries are set up in schools located in Antioch, Bay Point, Martinez, Pittsburg, Richmond, and San Pablo.
This year WPE’s school pantries will deliver in excess of 415,000 meals of quality, nutritious food. WPE plans to open new pantries in 2020, but continuing the Program will depend on finding sustainable funding.
Institution of New Health Protocols
Based upon guidelines issued by the state and county, WPE will be incorporating new health guidelines to support state and local efforts to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. These protocols (hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, gloves, social distancing, etc.) will be made a part of all aspects of WPE’s food and clothing operations. “It is important for the public and our volunteers to know that WPE will be implementing strict cleanliness standards so that our valuable programs can continue safely,” says Mary Brooks, WPE’s Executive Director. “And the families at the schools we are serving should know that WPE is preparing and delivering this surplus food in accordance with these high standards.”
ABOUT WPE: WPE is a volunteer powered 501(c)3 organization headquartered in Pleasant Hill, CA, which helps people move from the margins to the mainstream by providing free food and clothing in a loving and respectful manner.
Dr. Carol Weyland Conner founded WPE in September 2013 when she was troubled that with such as an abundance of food, many thousands were going hungry, while at the same time food retailers were throwing out huge quantities of healthy, fresh food. Out of this insight, the Food Rescue program was born. In a little over 6 years, WPE has rescued and delivered more than 10.5 million pounds (equivalent to 8,750,000 meals) of fresh, nutritious food, free of charge, that would otherwise go to waste.
In 2014 the White Pony General Store was added to provide high quality clothing, toys, and books to the underserved in our communities—all free of charge. Since that time, the General Store has given away over 512,000 items to those in need.
If you’d like to contribute to WPE’s School Food Pantry Program or its other programs, you can do so by visiting WPE’s website at https://www.whiteponyexpress.org/donate-funds. Those who wish to volunteer can sign up at https://www.whiteponyexpress.org/volunteer
For more on WPE, visit www.whiteponyexpress.org.