April 10, 2020 – The California Conservation Corps is answering the call to keep Californians fed during the COVID-19 outbreak. Corpsmembers across the state are rolling up their sleeves at local food banks to sort donations, prepare bags and boxes of food, and distribute items to community members.
In Sacramento, Corpsmembers from the CCC’s Placer Center arrive every morning ready for a day of hard work in the vast warehouse of Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services. Corpsmembers are used to workdays out in the elements building trails, cutting brush, and using power tools. At the warehouse, they’re building bags of fruits and vegetables, cutting open boxes, and using machinery to haul pallets of food.
“We’re very pleased that we have the California Conservation Corps here,” said president and CEO Blake Young. “A majority of our volunteers are seniors and we wanted them to stay home and shelter in place. By using the CCC we limit exposure and are able to re-deploy other volunteers to agencies who need to get food out. The Corpsmembers have done a good job for us.”
The Sacramento Food Bank, like many food banks across the state, is seeing demand skyrocket in the wake of stay-at-home orders, the closing of non-essential businesses, and layoffs. The non-profit feeds 150,000 residents each month. Since mid-March, the amount of food provided to partner agencies and directly to clients has doubled.
“I was thinking about the difference we’re making as I was packing the boxes. People really need this food,” said Corpsmember Liliana Santellano. “We’re helping relieve the volunteers that aren’t able to be here because of the coronavirus.”
The 18 to 25-year-old Corpsmembers are used to responding to calls for assistance. CCC Crews respond to support fire basecamps each year, are trained to fight floods, and often answer the call nationally during major natural disasters like hurricanes and floods.
“The coronavirus is really affecting a lot of family and homes,” said Fresno Corpsmember Breana Peralta. “A lot of people have lost their jobs. This is our way to give back to the community. It’s amazing to interact with people that need our help. This is what we’re all about.”
Corpsmembers enroll for a year of paid service to build up their resumes, earn scholarships, their high school diplomas, and learn to improve and enhance California’s environment while bettering themselves at the same time.
“I wanted to learn how to be of service to others,” said Solano Corpsmember Michael Matison. “This is exactly what I was hoping to do in the CCC.”
The assignment at local food banks is being coordinated by the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services. CCC crews are working at a dozen area food banks across the state and will for as long as they’re needed during the statewide emergency.