Groups work to combat hunger in Needles
NEEDLES — Hungry? You’re not alone.
There seem to be a lot of hungry people in Needles these days despite the best efforts of a handful of local churches, monthly USDA commodity distribution, free student meals in the Needles Unified School District and the food bank of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift store on Front Street to keep up with demand.
Barstow shelter Desert Manna, which also runs several food programs, brought a truckload of fresh produce to sell for $5 a bag plus an assortment of free food and clothing items to Santa Fe Park on Dec. 15. The produce was gone in about a half hour; the rest was cleared out soon after. St. Vincent de Paul and Set Free Church fed a record 450 on Thanksgiving Day.
The largest single effort so far comes this week: The Fort Mojave Indian Tribe and their Avi Resort and Casino, with support from the city of Needles, plan to provide 1,000 families with ingredients to make Christmas dinner for four at drive-through food stations in the city/county complex at Bailey and Lilyhill. Hours are 2 to 5 p.m. PST Thursday, Dec. 20. See a column from the tribe’s Gentry Medrano on today’s Page 4 for complete details.
St. Vincent de Paul and Set Free team up again to offer their traditional dinner Christmas Day, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Fr. Hanley Hall along Third Street behind St. Ann Catholic Church.
Local organizers and volunteers including Needles City Councilor Tona Belt, hope Desert Manna will visit regularly. Belt, when announcing the event during the Nov. 27 council meeting, said vendors could join the venture to eventually make a regular community event. Farmers markets, which used to be held at the same location, proved very popular. George DeLeon, St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store manager, said he hoped Desert Manna would be back and commented that the event pairs well with the thrift store’s hosting of the USDA commodity distributions on the third Saturday of each month.
St. Vincent de Paul gave Christmas food vouchers to cover the $5 for bags of produce. DeLeon, his wife Sandi, Sherrie Pyle, Kalani Rodriguez and JR Hernandez from St. Vincent de Paul joined Belt and the Barstow group to help with Saturday’s event.
Visit desertmanna.org for program details.