The Food Bank of El Dorado County handed out meal provisions to hungry South Shore locals on Wednesday in an effort to battle what the organization is calling Tahoe’s “hidden hunger epidemic.”
It was the fifth time the Mobile Food Pantry has made it out to the area, which is experiencing a widespread hunger problem, said Mike Sproull, founder of the El Dorado County nonprofit.
“South Lake Tahoe is hurting,” he said, “and we are coming to help.”
The Food Bank typically feeds about 150 families when it distributes food on the west slope of the county, Sproull said. However, it fed about 286 families during the pantry’s fourth visit to South Lake Tahoe.
On Wednesday, families and individuals in need lined up in front of the large vehicle at American Legion Post 795. They grabbed a number and waited to the side as volunteers loaded shopping carts with food.
About 143 families showed up for event. It wasn’t the 280 Sproull was expecting, but he said more people may have come if they knew about the event.
Bonnie Clarke, a Food Bank recipient, heard of the Food Bank’s arrival after someone at the Tahoe Senior Plaza brought back frozen chicken. She went to the distribution site because money is tight, she said, and her husband has medical issues.
“It helps me out a lot,” she said of the donations.
Mike Smith, of the Tahoe Food Closet, said it’s been difficult spreading the word about distribution locations because South Lake Tahoe receives new transients frequently.
“Everyone keeps sending their homeless around the state like a big revolving door,” he said.
But even without word spreading as much as the Food Bank would have liked, the organization managed to unload 11,800 pounds of food at Wednesday’s event. Remaining food was used to stock other food distribution centers in the area, Sproull said.
“There’s not enough food in South Lake Tahoe to feed all of these people,” he said.
The Food Bank is teaming up with other agencies — such as the Network for a Healthy California — to serve the area more effectively. It also plans on conducting a study in South Lake Tahoe to better identify the hunger problem, he said.
The study will start in about 30 days.
Sproulls said he would like to continue to fight South Shore’s hunger problem, but food distributors will need the community’s support.
“We need the community,” he said. “This isn’t going to work unless the community buys into it.”