Ocean liners are launched with the smack of champagne bottles over their bows. So when Food Share, which distributes donated food to the hungry in Ventura County, unveiled a gigantic new refrigerator freezer at its Oxnard warehouse Wednesday, retired executive director Jewel Pedi threw a snowball at the freezer's door.
Within minutes, the first forklift load of donated frozen food was put into the frosty locker. "Isn't this the coolest celebration you've ever been to?" Pedi said to the dozens of Food Share supporters and volunteers gathered for the "Big Freeze" opening.
"We'll never have to turn down donated food again," said Dan Williams, Food Share's volunteer coordinator. "We just got eight bins of peaches. Now we can store them. Spoilage is no longer a problem."
The $160,000 appliance--19 feet high by 88 feet deep by 30 feet wide--can hold 10 truckloads of food. It was purchased with donations from local cities, businesses, groups and individuals.
The 19-year-old food bank provides up to 300,000 meals a month to county residents, most of whom are seniors or children under 18, through several programs. Its warehouse acts as a distribution center to 200 charitable agencies.
"What we concentrate on here is collection," Williams said. "We have volunteer gleaners who pick fruit and vegetables from fields and orchards around the county. Now we can keep those perishables cool until they're distributed, instead of storing them outside, where they can spoil."
Williams said Food Share also receives "salvage" donations from grocery chains like Ralphs, Vons and Lucky's.
"We also do food drives, and we pick up donated food from restaurants, cafeterias and hospitals," he added.
Williams said Food Share needs more volunteers to help glean fields around the county on weekdays from 8 to 10:30 a.m. "And, of course, we always need money," he said.
Potential gleaners may contact FOOD Share at 983-7100.