There are starving people in Santa Clarita, area Salvation Army officials said. They’re trying to help.
Between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the Salvation Army Santa Clarita Valley Corps Food Pantry on Lyons Avenue in Newhall offers food and goods to those in need. The local charitable organization collects items on a regular basis from local grocery stores, restaurants and warehouses, and, according to the SCV Corps Capt. Rafael Viana, is very successful in getting it to a wide range of people who might otherwise go without meals.
“The good thing is that we’ve been receiving a lot of donations,” Viana told The Signal in a recent interview. “And we’re able to help anyone, really, who comes. We have, of course, unhoused individuals who come to us for food, especially food that’s not needed to be cooked.”
Many local businesses, he said, such as Yum Yum Donuts, Vons and Vallarta Supermarkets down the street in Newhall, Costco Wholesale in Canyon Country, Whole Foods in Valencia and others have regularly offered goods that they can’t sell because items, in some cases, have damaged packaging that aren’t presentable on a sales floor, but are still good and safe to eat. To ensure that these goods are safe, the SCV Corps, Viana added, has a series of guidelines when accepting donations.
“They have to be in good condition and not donations that are unable to be eaten,” Viana said. “It has to be within the parameters of the food bank.”
Many of the items the food pantry receives, Viana continued, include prepared meals like salads and wraps from Whole Foods, which are good for the homeless population that comes by. And Olive Garden regularly gives soups and pasta.
Once a month, the food pantry also offers non-perishable grocery items to those in need. Costco, for example, often donates diapers, coolers and sleeping bags, in addition to food goods.
“Families that will come — they come once a month,” Viana said. “They’re able to pick up a box of non-perishables, plus bakery items, plus any of the other things that we have available. So, the grocery box is a once-a-month item. With the food recovery program, people can come basically every day that we are open to be able to get those items.”
Another part of the SCV Corps Food Pantry program includes a partnership with College of the Canyons. Some students attending the school might have tuition covered, but not much more.
“They’re either living in their cars or they’re couch surfing,” Viana said. “So, we partner with (COC), and they come here and they pick up food. And there’s a place at the college itself — a pantry over there — where the students can come and the students can then pick up food from there.”
Those who utilize the SCV Corps Food Pantry programs typically must go through a screening process.
“We have an intake process where we gather information,” Viana said. “People just need to bring their I.D., proof of address, proof of income to make sure that everybody’s under eligibility. But, since COVID hit, sometimes people can be above the eligibility. With inflation, especially right now, there are a lot of people who are still struggling.”
The pantry will help those folks.
Then there are those who don’t have a home or any income at all.
“We’ve built a relationship with them in a way that — we know they’ve been chronically homeless,” Viana said. “So, we know that they live in the area and, for them, we know that they don’t have proof of address … And if they don’t have any information regarding what kind of financial assistance they have, whether because their information was stolen, whether because they don’t have it, really, or whether because they don’t receive any because they were not able to, then we make note of that and we try to refer and work with them to be able to get those documents, whether it’s a birth certificate, ID, Social Security card or letter from Social Security for any other benefits that they have.”
Viana, who only just became the new officer in charge of the Salvation Army SCV Corps over the summer, said the organization is fortunate to get so many donations on such a regular basis from local businesses. He called the SCV a “kind and loving community.”
“Usually, we have plenty of food,” he said. “By miracle, I’d say everything that comes in, goes out of the door. Rarely do we have to throw things away. Unless we get a lot of donations from everyone on the same day and we are literally overflowing with things, there might be things that, by the end of the day — especially if they need to be refrigerated — we need to just throw away. But most of the days, everything that comes in, goes out of the door by 2 o’clock.”
The Salvation Army SCV Corps offers a wide range of programs to local people in need. They help with food, clothing, essential items, homelessness, holiday assistance, addiction resources, aid in disaster recovery, and resources and services for seniors. It’s located at 22935 Lyons Ave. in Newhall. To learn more or to donate, go to SCVSalvationArmy.org.