OAKLAND -- Every Friday, Claudia Gutierrez, 31, has to find a ride to a food pantry near the airport from her home on 65th Avenue and International Boulevard.

The distance is far and a hassle, but she wants fresh produce in her kitchen for her children.

When Gutierrez spotted a mobile truck food pantry at nearby Lockwood Elementary School, she stopped to load her bags with carrots, apples, beans -- all that the Alameda County Community Food Bank offered to the 100 folks who showed up first.

"It's better because I can walk here," Gutierrez said. "They're giving out fruits and vegetables. We're very thankful they're giving out what we need."

The Lockwood stop is part of the food bank's expansion of school-based mobile pantries and food programs for youth. The pantry is also coupling with health care promotion and education programs, such as screenings and information about CalFresh.

These services are funded by a new $250,000 grant to the food bank from financial company Morgan Stanley as part its pilot Healthy Cities program. Chicago and Newark, New Jersey, are the only other cities also participating.

"What this is going to allow us to do is to set up mobile pantries in Oakland where we can serve people as we are today and to partner with organizations," said Suzan Bateson, director of the food bank. "We'll come back here and get to know the clients and their families and benchmark our progress."


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The grant is one of the largest in the food bank's 29 years. Healthy Cities chose Oakland because of complex health and hunger issues the city faces.

The food pantry serves 50,000 people each week and distributed food equivalent to 23 million meals last year.

"We're looking at how we can strengthen the whole tapestry of social services here to increase the impact for kids," said Joan Steinberg, president of the Morgan Stanley Foundation. "It's about the healthy foods, the health screenings and physical activities."

Morgan Stanley also gave the nonprofit KaBOOM! a grant to build safe play spaces in Oakland. Each city participating in the program received $500,000 for local initiatives.

The goal of the grants are to support a network of solutions addressing health and hunger problems in Oakland, Steinberg said.

In addition to the mobile pantries, the food pantry is expanding its free summer lunches at Oakland libraries to help bridge the summer meal gap for low-income children and its Children's Backpack Program, which sends middle school and high school students home with food on weekends.

The mobile food pantry will be open twice a month during the summer and once a month during the school year.

The truck's next stop will be at César E. Chávez Branch Library on July 31. It will return to Lockwood Elementary School on Aug. 22.