Richmond Emergency Food Pantry seeks volunteers amid growing demand for services

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Richmond Emergency Food Pantry needs help feeding neighbors in need
All photos and video of operations at the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry by Kathy Chouteau.

By Mike Kinney and Kathy Chouteau

A critical Richmond-based program that distributes food to some of the neediest families in the local community is in need of volunteers and donations amid a growing demand for its services.

Volunteers are needed to support the Richmond Emergency Food Pantry’s (REFP) twice weekly distribution efforts at Grace Lutheran Church at 24th Street and Barrett Avenue, near Richmond Civic Center. The distributions occur Tuesdays and Fridays between the hours of 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. Generally there are two shifts within that time period, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

One-time or occasional volunteers or regular volunteers are all welcome. On a recent visit to the REFP, the Standard encountered Pantry Manager Patricia Davidson and her friendly crew of volunteer worker bees preparing for the day’s food giveaways. Amid boxes of food from the USDA and donations from local stores like Target, Food Max and Sprouts, the volunteer crew has built a tight-knit community that is evident.

Donations large and small are also needed. They are accepted by mail or online at www.refp.org

The REFP is an all-volunteer organization founded in 1971 by the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program (GRIP), a group of 40 congregations that came together to provide services to the greater Richmond community. The pantry became an independent nonprofit organization in 1986.

In 1971, REFP served five to six families per day. In 2022, it served an average of 130 families per day, providing fresh produce, dairy products, bread and a large box of grocery staples to each client in need once per month.

The need in the community is growing.

“Recently we have been serving as many as 170 households each day,” said Ben Kellerman, who serves on the REFP Board.

With no paid staff and a growing need for its services, REFP relies on community volunteers and donations.

“After we pay rent, utilities, maintenance and insurance, all contributions go entirely to the purchase of food and supplies,” Kellerman said, adding that volunteers donate more than 550 hours each month.

For struggling local families in need of food, RFEP’s services are open to residents of West Contra Costa County. Low income households may apply to receive food at the Pantry between the hours of 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Tuesdays or Fridays.  Clients must show ID and declare and self-certify their monthly household income. Once approved, households may pick up food one time per month on any Tuesday or Friday between the hours of 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.