Park-It Market: Driving the Grocery Store to People in Need

Sometimes it’s tough for folks who are doing OK to imagine that there are people in our community who are going without food. But the problem is real, and even more so now, with pandemic-related job losses, reduced working hours, and quarantining.

There’s nothing more basic than the need for food. Yet, food budgets are often one of the few things people can cut when money is tight. In the West Valley, our County has long partnered with West Valley Community Services (WVCS), which last year alone helped nearly 3,500 clients experiencing food insecurity. The organization’s well stocked food pantry in Cupertino is one part of the remedy.

But there are many folks in need who don’t have reliable transportation. Even if you have the most wonderful food pantry around—and the WVCS Market truly is a wonderful and welcoming place—if people can’t get to it, you need to bring the food to the people.

With that in mind, five years ago our office led County support for WVCS’s mobile food pantry program. Since then, this “bookmobile for groceries” has benefitted more than 350 clients each month who have barriers to transportation—including seniors, families, and students at West Valley College—with weekly stops at sites across the West Valley, including Saratoga and Los Gatos.

While the mobile pantry stopped visiting the community college during the pandemic, WVCS expects to restart early this year in tandem with the campus reopening more fully to in-person education. With one in three college students in California struggling with food or housing insecurity, according to the California Student Aid Commission, this is welcome news. Struggling students shouldn’t have to choose between hunger and buying books or paying rent.

Last year, our County funding helped WVCS purchase a customized open-sided food truck, the bright blue “Park-It Market” van which stocks fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods, dairy products, meat, fish, and canned goods.

Park-It Market’s clients are invited to choose the food that suits their tastes and needs, just like at a regular grocery store. The difference is that the food drives closer to them, and they never have to stop and pay at a checkout stand.

It’s an honor to partner with WVCS, which has been working to ease hunger and homelessness in the West Valley for nearly half a century. And, with goods donated by growers from the Creekside Farmers’ Market, local stores, and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley, and gleaners from Village Harvest donating fruit they’ve picked from the trees of generous local homeowners, the Park-It Market is truly a community collaboration.

Joe Simitian
Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

This article was originally published in the Saratoga Spotlight in February 2022.

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