Photo: Jeffry England
Trinity County Food Bank, Making a Difference in a Remote Community
A few CalFoods Logistics team members recently took a road trip to one of the more remote food banks in Northern California, Trinity County Food Bank in Weaverville, CA. Traveling on Highway 5 North, you’ll see open spaces and farmlands with freshly planted olive trees as far as the eyes can see. It’s nice to see farmers still living and crops thriving on the land in California.
There are occasional shopping developments and new casinos, but you will quickly be reminded of California’s vast. You will even see the snowy peaks of Mt. Shasta in 90 degrees of heat. The trip’s mid-way point is in Redding, a smaller bustling city with an old town feel. As our 3-hour journey continued, we exited Redding and headed West towards the hills on Highway 299; you will start to drive deep into Trinity County.
As you drive up a winding road for many miles, your sightline is immediately hit with the first signs of prior fires where trees are halfway toppled with black ash, still hanging onto branches. Yet, there are signs of life with green growth underneath the burned-out trees. You can imagine what these hills went through with the raging fires. You feel for the community as there is only a 2-lane highway. The fire burned everything in its sight and was very close to town. And suddenly you pass a beautiful clean body of water called Whiskeytown Lake, where a few small boats enjoy the calm on the water.
Looking all around as we travel up the mountainside to appreciate California’s natural beauty it has to offer; you are quickly reminded that technology does not live in the mountains. No radio, a spotty cell connection; it’s just you and your thoughts as you drive through this wonderous natural land. As the drive continues, you’ll see a smattering of smaller homes off the highway that looks like they have been there for generations. We pass an Indian Creek Lodge similar to a nice Motel Six with an old-school 70’s vibe but a nice place to rest.
When we finally reach our destination and enter the small city of Weaverville, it looks like an old cowboy town. Established in the mid-1800s, Weaverville was a mining town during the gold rush era. You are brought back in time with its quaint and charming feel, and you get a sense that not much has changed since the beginning.
We enter the driveway of Trinity County Food Bank. There we meet Jeffry England, Director of Trinity County Food Bank. This man is on a mission to feed his community, and he gives it everything he has.
Jeffry has been running the operations for over six years now, and his wife Krishann. Trinity County Food Bank has been serving its community since 1975. The population is approximately 13,000 to 14,000 people, and this food bank location serves around 1,500 individuals per month. Trinity County is one of the poorest counties in California, yet the resilience of its community members is the backbone of the county.
A Passion for Feeding the Hungry
Trinity County Food Bank has always been there to help the community. Still, when it came time to find a new food bank champion, Jeffry and his wife Krishann, volunteered to continue the excellent work for their much-appreciated township. With only four paid staff and a long list of faithful volunteers, this food bank makes miracles happen.
Jeffry moved to Trinity County about 22 years ago, where his wife spent her youth visiting her grandfather. Jeffry grew tired of commuting within the Bay Area and decided to plant roots in this picturesque area of California. Jeffry said, “We both had a passion for feeding the hungry, and our motto is no one should ever go hungry in Trinity County.” They started a food pantry and organized music festivals with donations to feed the hungry.
The work never stops, and Jeffry is thankful for the business community and personal donors who support the food bank. A typical week is going over the receiving and distribution schedule and coordinating picking up food an hour away or organizing their warehouse for an upcoming delivery.
Trinity County Food Bank will receive food assistance from CalFoods Logistics, Feeding America, the Food Bank of Solano & Contra Costa County, and other local grocery stores and businesses. Jeffry is also associated with the Trinity Community Food Outreach program, where he is a volunteer. Once all the food is at his location, volunteers will help sort and organize for the big distribution day at the food bank. People from all over the county will come to pick up much-needed supplemental food boxes or gift cards to assist them with additional grocery needs. Jeffry and the team will distribute food to other non-profit agencies that lack extra food for their community.
Food Insecurity Has Always Existed in the County
The demand for food assistance is still growing, and Jeffry and his team of volunteers work tirelessly to ensure people get fed and the help they need. Weaverville is a “food desert,” meaning the only food source for many miles; this is how remote Weaverville is. While Trinity County has always had its challenges with food insecurity, once COVID hit, the need was much more significant. And dealing with mother nature in the brutal snowy winters, scorching summers, or fire season in such a remote area is not for everyone. This can make it very difficult for food deliveries to those who need it the most. “We’re the first responders to any disaster; we take care of our own. We helped after the Camp Fire and Carr Fire and will go to other counties if they need help,” Jeffry said. “We raised $50,000.00 and brought water, food, gift cards and helped them replace water systems after the fires.”
A quick phone call may have Jeffry doing a personal grocery run and making home deliveries for seniors and others who cannot get out independently. It is no wonder that he will be recognized as the Grand Marshall this year in the Fourth of July parade in Weaverville. This is a big honor in the county. For a moment in time, Jeffry will be publicly cheered, appreciated, and recognized as the unsung hero that continues to bring compassion and love to his fellow community members.
Rebuilding a Good Foundation
Five and a half years ago, the original building was approximately 850 square feet and had since expanded to over 6,000 sq feet within four years. Jeffry credits help from his protégée Connor Nixon, for raising money to expand the operations and facility. And they use every inch of the facility.
A section of the warehouse is a small hallway that used to be a gun range. This was a part of a Veteran’s Hall called the Civil Defense Hall back in the 1940s and 50s. We see stacks of the CalFoods Logistics food box kits, which Jeffry is preparing and storing now for the upcoming fire season. The food bank also has two large walk-in refrigerators courtesy of community donations, a refrigerated container in the back of the building, a new bathroom with running water, and an expanded warehouse to keep volunteers out of the elements. They also received a grant for $98,000, turned the funds into $250.00 gift cards, and distributed them to those needing to purchase additional food.
Getting the Word Out About Food
Jeffry gets the word out about their food distribution and various locations through networking with the community businesses and social media. He is a strong advocate for the hungry and anyone that needs a little extra help. Jeffry said, “We’ve had a lot of new people lately, and if they are standing in line, they need the food. I’m constantly responding to emails and phone calls for emergency cases.”
He says the best part about his job is being able to help people. Whether it’s the fires or other disasters, he does whatever he can. They have items that are prepped and ready to distribute for the next catastrophe, such as blankets, pet food, utensils, shaving kits, shampoo, etc. For the items they can’t use, they have an outlet to give to their clients.
The food bank distributed many masks during the height of COVID, and they were getting test kits from the county. And they now have a supply on hand in preparation if the COVID numbers start to spike. During these critical months, Jeffry said no one at the food bank got COVID.
One of the biggest challenges is the weather. During the winter, a place called refrigerator alley is a curvy road with potholes that can be scary when trying to make food deliveries to remote locations. “We have large distributions and sometimes have an eleven-hour day of loading the truck and driving to its destination to deliver,” said Jeffry. No matter the weather conditions, Jeffry and the team make the long hauls to get the people what they need: food.
How You Can Help Trinity County Food Bank
If you enjoyed this story, please visit their website, and make a small donation that goes directly to helping feed the people of Trinity County. And remember when you pass by your local food bank, please think about how your volunteerism, donation and kindness can go a long way to help another in need.
Find out more and DONATE today: Trinity County Food Assistance Program (trinitycountyfoodbank.org)