By Shawn Raymundo

To help get food to individuals and families whose lives have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, Saddleback Church has continued to offer its weekly food pantry services, which have been converted into drive-throughs to comply with the state’s social distancing guidelines.

Those in need can pull up their vehicle to any one of the church’s regular food pantry locations, including one in San Clemente every Wednesday morning, to pick up food and other necessities, according to Christina Selter, a senior care ministry leader for Saddleback.

“No ID, no income (information) requested; we don’t ask for anything. We just want to make sure that anyone who says they’re in need, we can serve them,” Selter said, adding, “Anybody that shows up, we will give them food. And the produce, everything, is so fresh and beautiful.”

With state and local health officials urging communities and businesses to practice social distancing, Saddleback’s distribution center has begun putting together pre-packaged bags based on various family sizes.

In doing so, Selter explained, volunteers and church staff at the pantries can easily load the bags into a person’s vehicle without having to physically come into contact with person picking up food.

“So, if they have a family of four, we know which one to put in their trunk,” Selter said.

The packaged bags themselves, she noted, are meant to provide enough food for about five days.

“It’s a lot of groceries,” she said. “A lot of proteins, meats, frozen (foods), and produce. It’s beautiful.”

In addition to the weekly food pantries, Saddleback has also begun conducting pop-up pantries, wherein the church goes to various locations like schools and neighborhoods that are requesting food and supplies.

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom deployed the California National Guard to assist food banks that have seen a shortage of volunteers while experiencing additional needs because of the global health crisis.

Asked whether Saddleback has been experiencing similar circumstances, Selter said the church has not. Selter explained that the church has its own farm and thefore able to grow its own vegetables.

At its food pantries, Saddleback is also continuing to accept donations of canned goods and other supplies such as toiletries from the community, Selter said.

As for volunteers, Selter said that those 65 and older who have asked to help out can still do so by working from home. Such individuals, she said, are able to operate phone lines, scheduling food pick-ups and even just offering to talk if a caller is feeling lonely in isolation.

Saddleback’s food pantry in San Clemente at 1311 Calle Batido is held every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to noon. The church also opens the San Clemente food pantry on the third Wednesday of the month from 6-7:30 p.m. and the fourth Saturday of the month from 9-11 a.m.

More information on Saddleback’s pantries, including a list of other locations in Orange County, can be found at the saddleback.com/connect/ministry/food-pantry. You can also call 949.609.8665 for other questions.

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