When Times Get Tough, Alameda Gets Going

When Times Get Tough, Alameda Gets Going

It’s become fashionable to deride 2020 as “annus horribilis” but I prefer to see it as a near biblical test of Alameda’s resolve and resiliency to which we have responded admirably.
In my role as executive director of the Alameda Food Bank, I have seen Islanders rise to the occasion with grit and compassion, keeping an eye out for others even as they secured themselves and their families.

When the lockdown was announced in mid-March, we were faced with a double-whammy: relocate our distribution operations from our small facility at Atlantic Avenue and

Constitution Way to our larger warehouse on Alameda Point — and do it without the help of our stalwart crew of senior volunteers who needed to stay at home for their own safety. The move went off without a hitch, thanks to a whole new crew of volunteers who jumped into the fray and have remained to help us keep up with a tenfold increase in clients.

In addition, the City of Alameda, which had its hands full responding to its own set of challenges, sent staff members to help us set up our warehouse, direct traffic through our new drive-through process and help out in myriad other ways.

It was also gratifying to see so many of our friends in the Coast Guard remember the help they received from us during the federal government shutdown early last year show up to return the favor.

Our community partners have been equally forthcoming. Our local supermarkets have increased the amount of food they are giving us. Alameda Backyard Growers have been working overtime to keep us supplied with fresh fruit and vegetables from local trees and the Bay-Eagle Community Garden volunteers continue to tend to the food bank’s plot and bring us the bounty to share with our clients. Alameda Yacht Club, the Italian American League, Alameda Peeps, Temple Israel, FunAmeda Production’s Haunt Your House and other local groups set up fundraisers to help us buy the food we needed to feed their neighbors.

Since we couldn’t accept direct food donations, the always prepared Alameda Scouts got creative and redesigned their annual Scouting for Food Drive to go virtual. Each of the Scouts took to social media to solicit donations from their personal networks.
Other local non-profits responding to the pandemic have also benefited from the community’s generosity. Hard-hit local businesses have been supported by their loyal customers. The City of Alameda awarded $600,000 in grants to local businesses struggling to stay afloat and quickly restriped Park and Webster streets to allow restaurants to start serving outdoors.

While other communities had a hard time getting residents to take the pandemic seriously, Alamedans were quick to adopt safe practices. Masks quickly became a badge of honor and local businesses complied with sometimes onerous restrictions. No viral videos of scofflaws from this town!

We still have a long way to go, but our track record thus far indicates we’ll not only survive but come out stronger as a community. The upside of this for the food bank is that so many more people now know who we are and what we do. Folks — who had never turned to us for help before — know they can do so again if they run into another rough patch. Many others who stepped forward to help us for the first time will likely continue to support us in the future.

Yes, it’s been a difficult year, but when times get tough, this tough community gets going. We’ll get through this together and be stronger for it.

Cindy Houts is the Alameda Food Bank Executive Director.