Canned food drive aims to break new donation record


ucan:Roy Morris received lunch from Loaves and Fishes last week. U-Can will help feed homeless people like Morris in Sacramento. :Nallelie Vega – State Hornet

Timothy Sandoval

Sacramento State’s Rotaract Clubwill hold its second annual “U-Can” food drive next week, seeking to break the record it set in its previous year in terms of pounds of food collected.

Rotaract will attempt to collect 10,000 pounds of non-perishable food, more than the 8,000-pound mark it met last year. The food will go to Loaves and Fishes and the River City Food Bank, two organizations that serve free meals to Sacramento’s homeless.

“It all about digging deeper and giving something even when you don’t think you have much to give,” said Christie Pierce, president of the Rotaract Club.

Containers will be set up throughout the University Union for people to drop off donations. There will be another container set up inside the Safeway supermarket on Howe Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard.

Janet Green, who works in outreach development for Loaves and Fishes, said she is excited to work with the Rotaract Club.

“I think it’s wonderful,” Green said. “They always talk about college-aged kids being selfish and into themselves, so it’s inspiring.”

Pierce said the Rotaract Club wanted to work to help people who are homeless partly because of the sheer numbers. Sacramento has roughly 2,500 people who are homeless each night, 300 of them children, according to the Community Service Planning Council, a nonprofit social service planning agency.

“That alone shows we’re not doing enough in the community to help these people,” Pierce said.

Green said she has seen more people seek services at Loaves and Fishes since the economy started to struggle.

“The faces look a little different than in previous years,” Green said. “I’m used to seeing a lot of single men or single women with children, but now I see a lot more families. It’s definitely a rude awakening seeing people walking around that look like your neighbors.”

The Simental family has received meals from Loaves and Fishes everyday for almost year.

Gloria Simental, 55, suffers from bipolar disorder and suicidal tendencies. She also has back problems, making it hard for her to get out of bed. Stacio Simental, 20, and Tommy Simental, 22, have special needs and suffer from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Last year, Stacio Simental’s Social Security benefits were cut, causing financial strain on the family. They were evicted from their apartment because they were late on the rent.

The Simentals currently live in an apartment in downtown Sacramento on 9th Street. With a total income of $1,350 from Gloria and Tommy Simental’s Social Security, they sometimes have trouble paying the $895 rent, on top of their other bills.

“That’s why we come here,” Gloria Simental said. “To get food and help find out about different services.”

Pierce said he wants people to be empathetic toward those who are homeless.

“Every point in someone’s life they are going to hit rock bottom, and in some cases you bounce back and in some cases you don’t,” Pierce said. “In these cases these people need a helping hand to bounce back.”

Johnny Martin, 54, who has received meals from Loaves and Fishes for more than a year, said the people who go to Loaves and Fishes are only looking to improve their lives.

“It’s not always a handout, but it’s a hand up,” Martin said. “If you really want to get out and do something and better with your life, they can show you how. But it’s like climbing a ladder; you have to take one step at a time.”

Martin became homeless after her Social Security check was stolen from her mailbox last year, forcing her to be late on her rent.

Today, she lives in an apartment with her husband and another roommate, though they are not officially on the lease.

Martin worked as a caterer since she was 16. In her career, she cooked for many notable figures from Johnny Cash to Colin Powell, and even a few presidents. She also catered the Olympic track and field trails at Sac State.

In 2000, Martin became paralyzed from the waist down when she slipped at work. Doctors told she would never walk again.

She made it out of the hospital 13 days later, still able to walk. She still has spinostanosis, a condition that makes it difficult for her to walk. She has received Social Security because her disability for years.

The Rotaract Club will be relying on some volunteers to help it put the food drive together.

Pierce said the food drive is mostly about compassion and awareness.

“Put yourself in their shoes and take a couple steps and see how it feels living everyday with nothing in your pockets and barely anything on your back,” Pierce said. “We need to show them that there are still people out there who care.”

Timothy Sandoval can be reached at [email protected].