The Bobcat community understands the importance of giving back. This month, UC Merced celebrates 10 years of helping feed those in need across partnership with United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Distribution, Merced County Food Bank, Merced College, and local Image Masters businesses.
Rain or shine Since February 2012, on the third Friday of every month, students at UC Merced, Merced College, and members of the Merced community can receive free fresh vegetables, fruits, milk, juice, and frozen protein, among other nutritional items, all thanks to this crucial partnership between campus and the Food Network.
“Over the years, we’ve enhanced the monthly USDA food distribution by hosting resource fairs and cooking demonstrations in partnership with Merced College’s Department of Food and Nutrition. We also distribute non-food items such as deodorant, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sunscreen, dish soap and other necessities,” said the director of the Center of community engagement, Vernette Doty.
On average, more than 150 families are served each month. But at the height of the pandemic, more than 500 families were receiving help.
“It was humbling to see not only the need exacerbated by COVID, but also the response of people coming to help – to ensure our community members received the support they needed during times of upheaval,” Doty said. .
As a result of the pandemic, food distribution shifted to a drive-thru model and will continue with this model even after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
Additionally, for the fifth time, the program received a $5,000 Community Investment Grant from the United Way, an award that Dotty says highlights the hard work of those who make this distribution possible.
“The campus has done so much to support this direct service to students and the community,” Doty said. “So many offices and units and staff and individual faculty and hundreds of students came out to help with the distribution, supported by donations, and just cheered us on. I can’t begin to name all the people who made this outreach a success because the list would be too long and I know I would miss someone.
People are asked to wear masks when visiting the distribution site located at the Merced College Public Safety Complex.
If you would like more information about future distribution dates and times or to volunteer at distribution events, visit the Community Engagement Center’s USDA Food Distribution website.
In addition to the USDA distribution, students can access the Bobcat Food Pantry and community members can find additional resources by visiting the Merced County Food Bank website.