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Interfaith Food Closet offers lifeline

Facility extends hours to meet growing demand
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Wednesday was a first for Shelly Cobarrubiaz and her boyfriend Carson McNees.
The Foresthill couple made the trek into Auburn to seek assistance from the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet.
“I’m on Social Security, my boyfriend lost his job and we just need some help,” Cobarrubiaz said. “I applied for food stamps and was denied, so they told me to come here.”
McNees, a heavy equipment operator, has been unemployed since September.
“We had to live on the money that we saved, and it’s gone, and that’s scary,” Cobarrubiaz said. “It’s hard when you’re out of work and you can’t go to the grocery store like you used to.”
Cobarrubiaz described Wednesday’s experience as “very humbling.” McNees said the bags of food provided by the food closet are much appreciated.
“We’re very grateful for it because, what little cash we have, we can use it for heating, or for gas to look for work,” he said.
Those behind the scenes at the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet are noticing some changes at the Richardson Drive facility, which provides families and individuals with “emergency food” once every 30 days.
For starters, as of the start of the year the food closet is now open five days each week, from Monday to Friday, instead of Monday through Thursday.
“We couldn’t take care of the people, there were just so many coming in,” said Barbara Tellman, a food closet volunteer and spokeswoman.
Also, more people are asking for help. The Auburn Interfaith Food Closet provided 23,796 meals in January, 2,745 more than served in January 2008. The food closet helped 842 families in January 2009, up from 784 families in January 2008.
Who the food closet helps is changing too, Tellman said. For example, the number of homeless families seeking assistance has increased from 3 percent last year to 6.7 percent so far this year.
“We are seeing an increase in users,” Tellman said. “We’re seeing more first-time families, we’re seeing more elderly people, we’re seeing more single people, maybe people in construction who now don’t have a job. We’re definitely seeing an increase in the need.”
The food closet typically sees an increase in donations around the holiday season, and 2008 was no exception, Tellman said. That said, the holidays are now long gone.
“After the holidays, January, February, the donations tend to fall off,” she said. “We don’t see as many individuals bringing in donations, and not as much coming in from churches. I know that when I was here last week some of the cupboards were pretty bare.”
The food closet also lost a $20,000 grant from FEMA this year.
“That’s a lot of money for us, and that was not through our doing,” Tellman said.
With an increase in clients and rising food costs, it’s important to remember that every box of Hamburger Helper and every can of corn helps.
“If people could remember to, when they go to the grocery store, to grab an extra can of food or two for the food closet, it would be really helpful,” she said.
Don’t have any food to hand over? How about donating all the shopping bags — paper or plastic — cluttering your cabinets?
“It’s good recycling,” Tellman said. “If they’re clean, we’ll use them.”
Sponsorships are also welcome, Tellman said. Anything from $15 to $25 per month can feed a family.
Max Kane, Auburn Interfaith Food Closet assistant treasurer, said the best thing about helping the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet is that the donations stay close to home.
“It really is a community, and this stays within the community,” he said.
The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at lorylln@goldcountrymedia.com.

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If you need help:
The Auburn Interfaith Food Closet provides food for those in need once every 30 days. “Emergency food” consists of at least nine meals per person in the family. The food closet is located at 2985 Richardson Drive in Auburn, near the corner of Bell Road. Hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday-Friday, as well as the last Saturday of each month. Contact the food closet by calling (530) 885-1921 or e-mailing auburninterfaith@sbcglobal.net. Learn more at www.auburnfoodcloset.com.

What does the Auburn Interfaith Food Closet need?
Canned meats like tuna and chicken
Meal in a can (chili, ravioli, stew)
Canned vegetables
Peanut butter
Canned fruit
Cereal and oatmeal
Soup (but not Top Ramen or broth)
Spaghetti sauce
Pasta
Packaged macaroni and cheese, or “meal helpers”
Paper grocery bags with handles
Plastic grocery bags
Egg cartons