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Citrus Heights food bank sees long lines for Thanksgiving meal distribution

Volunteers work the four-lane drive through, registering recipients and loading vehicles with thanksgiving dinners on Nov. 17, 2022. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
Long lines of vehicles could be seen on San Juan Avenue last week for the Sunrise Christian Food Ministry’s annual Thanksgiving dinner distribution.

As part of the greater Sacramento food bank network, Sunrise Christian Food Ministry works with local grocery stores to offer a full Thanksgiving meal to community members who might not otherwise be able to afford one.

Sunrise Christian Food Ministry worker Jacob Chow said each individual received a turkey, with many families also receiving a full meal, but Chow during the event said some supplies may not last the duration of the two-day event.

From Nov. 17-18, volunteers from various businesses and community organizations worked to move traffic through the four-lane drive-through distribution, verifying names and loading trunks with food.

As 11 a.m. on the first day of the distribution, Chow said he estimated “at least a thousand” vehicles had already come through.

The distribution was held at Advent Lutheran Church at 5901 San Juan Ave., and vehicles backed up onto San Juan Avenue as far as Sperry Drive, prompting a response from the Citrus Heights Police Department to aid with traffic.

Chow said the organization has seen an increase with each year they offer the meals, something he attributes to current economic factors.

“What we’ve noticed is the amount of people that we help, that we take in as new clients per week has increased,” Chow said. “With the economic situation, with inflation, with all that’s happening economically of course, it’s hard to predict how this year would go.”

People receiving food are required to be registered with the food bank network, Chow said. Those registered with other food banks are sent away to receive a similar meal at those locations, he said. Some individuals and families are registered at the event.

This is the first year the ministry has organized the event since the retirement of board president Rocky Peterson. The distribution grew under Peterson’s leadership, expanding facilities, volunteers, and adding a new freezer storage space.

Food comes from local grocery stores such as Safeway, Raley’s, Sam’s, Costco, FoodMax, and Grocery Outlet, with the bulk of items coming from the Sacramento Food Bank, Chow said.

The Sentinel previously reported Sunrise Christian Food Ministry saw a significant increase in demand over the past two years. In a March 2022 update, the organization said almost 8,000 households received food since March 2020.

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