A survey administered by the United Samaritans Foundation found that 30 percent of individuals regard the free lunch that they receive from the organization's Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck as the only meal they will receive that day.
For assistant director and grants administrator Bev Hatcher, this finding just further validates the need of the community to have the Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck, which has been giving free lunches to those who might not otherwise have a lunch for over 20 years.
Last year alone, Hatcher reported that the Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck gave USF the ability to serve over 382,454 lunches throughout Stanislaus County, including Ceres.
"It is a basic need," said Hatcher. "We want to make sure that people who do not have food in their stomach get a meal, because you can't think, work or do anything without some food in your stomach."
Five days a week throughout the year, four trucks from USF branch out across nine communities in Stanislaus County, including Ceres, Keyes, Hughson Turlock, Waterford, Denair, Hickman, Empire and Modesto, to distribute free lunches to those in need.
The Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck only makes its rounds on weekdays; however, USF still strives to keep the community fed on the weekends by giving out grocery bags with extra food, including fruits and vegetables on Fridays.
Only 19 people are officially employed with USF according to Hatcher. Rather, a majority of success of the Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck is due to the hard work of volunteers.
As an example, Hatcher revealed that a group of volunteers comes in every Monday to cook up all of the eggs they need to make 3,000 egg salad sandwiches, which are assembled on Tuesday by another group of volunteers.
"They've been doing it for a long time," said Hatcher. "We couldn't do any of this without our volunteers."
Hatcher reported that-contrary to popular belief-most of the families that are served by the Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck are what she refers to as the "working poor," and not homeless.
"These are the disabled, seniors, those who just don't have enough to get through the month," said Hatcher. "Only about 18 percent are homeless."
"Most of the people we serve are housed, but they might not have access to a lot of supermarkets because they don't have any means of transportation, which leads them to making poor choices in food," added Hatcher.
According to Hatcher, the program is funded through donations, which can include either monetary gifts or supplies. She reported that they receive donations from many places, including Gemperle Farms, which provides free eggs every week, and California State University, Stanislaus, which brings leftover vegetables from their vegetable garden.
USF also receives grants from various organizations, including the City of Turlock and Kaiser Permanente. Thanks to a grant from Kaiser Permanente in the amount of $30,000, Hatcher reported that USF is able to provide fresh fruits and vegetables in addition to their free lunches.
In addition to benefitting the Daily Bread Mobile Food Truck, money from Kaiser Permanente also helps USF's Emergency Food Boxes Program, which provides a three-day food supply on the last Tuesday and Friday of each month for area residents.
However, Hatcher reported that to receive an emergency food box, individuals must provide proof of residency, picture identification and income verification. Additionally, a Social Security or medical card must be provided for each member of the household.
"With these boxes, we are able to make sure that we get fruits and vegetables out into the community," said Hatcher.
For more information or to view truck routes, visit unitedsamaritans.org or call 668-4853.