CONCORD -- Clutching her 1-year-old in her right arm, Reyna Perez picked through produce with her left, dropping tomatoes, cauliflower, sweet potatoes and pears into her tote bag.
All this at Concord's newest produce section -- a roving white truck where the prices cannot be beat. The food here is free for qualified customers.
In a first for Contra Costa County, the Food Bank of Contra Costa and Solano is taking its new produce truck on a non-stop tour of central and eastern Contra Costa, stopping at three locations daily, offering free produce to low-income families.
So far, 20 locations in Concord, Antioch, Pittsburg, Martinez and Oakley have been selected, with plans to expand to 30 locations and by
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The produce-on-wheels truck stopped outside Concord Public Health on Stanwall Circle Wednesday afternoon.
More than 50 families, and ranging in size from two to nine family members, bagged their own produce. There was no limit on the number of tomatoes, cauliflower or sweet potatoes to be had; each family was allowed up to two bags of pears.
Perez, who brought her daughter Sofia, said she was laid off three months before giving birth. Her husband works but money is tight, she said.
"It's been hard finding a job," said Perez.
The unemployment rate in Contra Costa was 9 percent in May.
"It's just bad times right now," said Antioch
Enriquez said she was in real estate investing up until two years ago, when her job was outsourced to India. Her husband is out of work, too. But Enriquez considers herself lucky not just for receiving the free produce but for her four adult children, who have stepped in to help the family financially.
"I'm blessed with my children," said Enriquez.
The produce program started recently with $400,000 from the John Muir Mt. Diablo Community Health Fund, which paid for the truck and staff. The produce comes from farmers in the San Joaquin Valley who donate produce that is fresh but does not cut it aesthetically for supermarket display.
"This is great stuff," said Grace Caliendo, president and CEO of the health fund. "They know it's good stuff because they are really filling up."
To qualify, clients need to meet criteria centering on the size of their family and the family's total income. For example, a family of four qualifies if it does not make more than $42,643 annually. To see if you qualify, go to http://www.foodbankccs.org/get-help/community-produce-program.html.
No proof is needed.
"Hopefully we can be a regular supplier" of produce, said Larry Ely, executive director of the food bank.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.