ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. -- An Arroyo Grande church has brought back its previously long-running food outreach program during a time when the community needs it the most.
"We have been for the last few months giving away food every week," said Rachel Norburn, Everyday Church outreach coordinator. "It's been really exciting and amazing to get to meet the practical need that people in our community have for food."
However, the program was paused in 2018, but was brought back earlier this year at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"As soon as COVID hit, that opportunity was now is the time do it," said Sonya Lovell, Everyday Church outreach coordinator. "There's not a better time to do this for our community. It has just been so amazing to see this food ministry grow back up and start back up."
Everyday Church is one of 81 agency partners that help assist SLO Food Bank distribute foods to tens of thousands of county residents in need.
SLO Food Bank is one of the primary beneficiaries of the ongoing KCOY NewsChannel 12 Turkey Drive, which is collecting donations to help provide meals to people in need this holiday season.
"Hunger is unacceptable," said SLO Food Bank Development Director Branna Still. "It's a basic right. Everyone should access to food. As we lead into a season where a lot of our events focus on family and food, it would be a shame to not be able to provide a little piece of mind and a provide holiday meal for those who need it."
Held each Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., the Everyday Church distribution provide food to people in need, assisting up to 100 households in the Five Cities area.
"To have Everyday Church come back and ask to be a partner with us again meant a lot to not only us, but more so to the clients that they serve," said Still.
Volunteers highlight the importance their service provides to a wide-range of community members during these uncertain times.
"The needs hits all demographics of age and all sorts of different people come," said Norburn. "We have seen a real range of people come through the line. We've got families with multiple people. We've got older people, single people, lots of different types of people."
During the distribution, clients are able to receive enough food for their household, including dry and canned goods, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.
"There's been several people that have come through that have broke down in tears and thanked us because this is what they really needed," said Lovell.
Still pointed out since the pandemic started in March, research indicates food insecurity has increased by 154% in San Luis Obispo County.
"Before COVID, it was about one in six of our county members were facing hunger, and now that number is closer to two in five," said Still. "This is your neighbor, this is your co-worker, this is your colleague. This is your family friend. Everyone could have been affected. We are distributing food at historic rates right now, and I forsee with this restriction going back into the purple tier that we'll continue to see that historic rate and perhaps might even see that demand grow."
As the demand grows, Everyday Church volunteers emphasize they are ready to meet it.
"We hope to only expand this We don't want to stop it in any way, we just want to keep getting it bigger and better," said Norburn. "We're constantly working to evolve our food ministry, so that we can meet more needs and reach people that really need it."
The Turkey Drive is happening now and concludes on Thursday, November 19.
All proceeds benefit thousands of clients with Good Samaritan Shelter in Santa Barbara County and SLO Food Bank in San Luis Obispo County.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the Turkey Drive efforts this year are being directed towards an online fundraising campaign.
Contributions can be made online. Donations can also be made by phone by texting @KCOY TURKEY to 52014.
For more information, or to donate, visit the KCOY NewsChannel 12 Turkey Drive webpage.