Sometimes the news of the day just leaves you scratching your head and mumbling, “Huh?”
A local case in point — changes in the emergency food distribution system in Lassen County has led to smaller distributions of food to Lassen County’s neediest residents. Volunteers associated with California Emergency Foodlink, a nonprofit that has been delivering food to food banks in Lassen County for nearly 30 years, report the state contract under which Foodlink delivered food to Lassen County’s neediest residents ended Sept. 30, and since then the local food banks have been receiving half as much food and virtually no fresh produce for county residents.
And if that information isn’t concerning enough by itself, all that undelivered food already allotted for Lassen County residents this September remains in a Sacramento warehouse while a new food distribution process serves the needy in Lassen and Modoc counties.
Lauren Lathan Reid, director or communications for the California Association of Food Banks, declined to comment for this story.
“Thanks for reaching out,” Reid wrote in a 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2 response to a Friday, Oct. 30 morning email from lassennews.com. “I think your questions are probably best answered by the folks at the Californina (sic) Department of Social Services. Their comms (communications) guy is Scott Murray. I suggest you reach out to him.”
Lassennews.com had already contacted Murray Friday morning. He asked for more details, but he did not provide any information on the situation by deadline Monday evening.
Lassennews.com also reached out to state senator Brian Dahle. Dahle said he was aware of food distribution problems in other parts of his district and had worked to get the food out to the people.
“I did it in other parts of the district, but I wasn’t aware you were out of food,” Dahle said. “I’ll get to work on that.”
Foodlink used to deliver to Lassen and Modoc counties,” said Linda Cristian, president/chief financial officer, California Emergency Foodlink, “but our memorandum of understanding expired Sept. 30 and the state sent us a letter saying Nevada Foodbank was taking over effective Oct. 1. Then there was another letter saying the California Association of Foodbanks was going to take over October through December and Northern Nevada Foodbank would be taking over effective Jan. 1.”
Cristian said she would provide email copies of those letters to lassennews.com, but they did not arrive by deadline.
“We have in our warehouse Lassen and Modoc’s food that should have been going to those counties from through December,” Cristian said. “In the meantime, they have hired The California Association of Foodbanks to deliver food and, from what I understand, they’re getting food from SYSCO in Sacramento and (that food is) going to SYSCO in Reno and then somebody in Reno is delivering it.”
According to its website, “SYSCO is the global leader in selling, marketing and distributing food and non-food products to restaurants, healthcare and educational facilities, lodging establishment and other customers around the world.”
Cristian said she didn’t have an opinion on how or when the situation would improve for the needy in Lassen and Modoc counties.
“I’m not sure. I have no idea,” Cristian said. “We’re not involved in it anymore except there’s food here in our warehouse and that food should have been delivered to Lassen and Modoc counties.”
The California Association of Foodbanks is getting food from SYSCO, Cristian said — “a whole lot less food than they were getting. They’re getting a whole lot less food than we were delivering.”
Cristian said her agency has never used SYSCO to distribute its food.
“It’s very complicated,” Cristian said of the situation and all the different players, “but it’s not right.”