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Where to find free food distribution in Reno and Sparks


Johnathan L. Wright   | Reno Gazette Journal
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The face of hunger is growing more diverse in Northern Nevada.

Because of the sudden shutdown of businesses to slow the coronavirus, "so many people are not working all at once. A lot of people are in a situation they never thought they'd be in" — seeking help to put food on the table, said Jocelyn Lantrip of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada.

The Food Bank, the region's largest community food resource, has seen a 30 to 50 percent increase in clients in the past month at its mobile food distributions, Lantrip said, with many of the Food Bank's nearly 150 partner agencies also reporting more folks seeking help.

Such increases come in addition to the regular clients of food assistance organizations, including the working poor who rely on pantries and distributions to eat.

"Those same people are still in trouble and have even less income, and now we're seeing all these new clients who just lost their jobs," Lantrip said. "People need immediate help."

And that help is available.

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FOOD BANK OF NORTHERN NEVADA, 775-331-3663, email@fbnn.org

Food pantries: The Food Bank distributes foods to dozens of pantries in Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra. For Washoe County pantries, click here. For other locations, click here.

Mobile Harvest: This program distributes shelf-stable items and fresh produce monthly at locations throughout Northern Nevada. For safety, Mobile Harvest is now drive-through. "We want to serve as many people as we can with as little contact as we can," Lantrip said.

To receive assistance, complete the client intake form here. The May distribution schedule can be found here.

Kids Café: This program provides breakfast and lunch to children ages 1 to 18 on certain days at about 20 Washoe County locations.

If children are not present, parents must present student ID (for school-age children) or supply name and age of child (for children too young for student ID) to receive grab-and-go meals. Click here for current locations.

Commodity Supplemental Food Program: The Food Bank, through a federal program, distributes a monthly food box to low-income seniors at least 60 years old throughout Northern Nevada. For eligibility and other details, click here.

Donating money: The Food Bank makes significant food purchases for its own programs and for distribution to partner agencies. Each dollar donated pays for three meals, according to the organization.

Donating time: Volunteers are needed for packing sessions at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center and for staffing Mobile Harvest distributions. The Food Bank typically has many senior volunteers, but for safety during the coronavirus, folks 65 and older cannot volunteer.

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ST. VINCENT'S FOOD PANTRY, 500 E. Fourth St., 775-786-5266, hdominguez@ccsnn.org

The pantry provides more than 15,000 people a month with non-perishable packaged food. First-time clients complete an intake survey to determine what programs best suit their needs. The pantry includes items for people with dietary restrictions, like diabetics.

Even before the shutdown, St. Vincent's was planning for more clients by pre-packing boxes, contacting partner agencies, exploring supply chain disruptions, applying for grants and reaching out to donors, said Marie Baxter, CEO of Catholic Charities of Northern Nevada, parent organization of the pantry.

"We're looking at this long-term level of need," she said. "Financial contributions are key to us right now as we continue to purchase food for the long run. We want to have the funding available to continue to make food available to anyone who is hungry."

Click here for pantry details. Click here to donate money. The pantry is not currently accepting volunteers.

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THE COMMUNITY FOOD PANTRY, 1135 12th St., Sparks, behind the Sparks Library, 775-391-0482

Like St. Vincent's Food Pantry, the Community Food Pantry is a partner agency of the Food Bank of Northern Nevada. The pantry, which served nearly 27,000 people last year, offers a three-day supply of non-perishable packaged foods, as well as produce, dairy and frozen meat when available.

Drive-through pick-up currently runs 10 a.m. to noon and 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesdays and 9 to 11 a.m. Saturdays. To receive food, clients provide their names and birth dates to volunteers standing at a distance.

"We normally ask people to fill out a form, but we don't want to risk a chance of germs getting passed," said Barbara Monroy, executive director of the pantry.

Another requirement also is being waived: "We usually say once a month for food, but right now, people can come as often as they need to."

Given that, financial contributions that allow the pantry to purchase food are the best way to offer support, Monroy said. Volunteers also are being accepted (the group is down to six). To donate or volunteer, complete the contact form here.

Through a state grant, the Community Food Pantry also feeds seniors living in certain area residences (this program is currently full).

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Johnathan L. Wright is the food and drink editor of RGJ Media, part of the USA Today Network. Join @RGJTaste on TwitterFacebook and Instagram