The Second Harvest Food Bank of Orange County will be revamping their drive through food pantry designed to help those in need during the coronavirus pandemic by addressing wait time concerns after last week’s launch.

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The drive through food pantry is held outside the Honda Center parking lot in Anaheim on Saturdays between 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. or until supplies last. It will provide shelf stable foods for those in need.

Harald Herrmann, CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank, said they have retooled the event for this week and are prepared to serve 8,000 people.

As the pandemic continues to affect people’s income, the pantry will be adding to the volumes of the bags they hand out.

Instead of running two food lines for cars the non-profit will be running eight lines this week.

“The demand was overwhelming. We served 2,728 cars. People were lining up at 6 a.m. for a 9 a.m. start,” He said about the first drive through food pantry on March 21.

“We literally had a SigAlert on the 57 freeway called because of the demand.”

A SigAlert is a notification of any traffic incident that will “tie up” one to two lanes on the freeway for  two or more hours, according to the California department of transportation website.

Karina Cambara, who lives in Anaheim, attended the first drive through the pantry last week and said she received a jar of peanut butter and a bottle of coconut water that was expired.

photo of peanut butter jar
The jar of peanut butter Karina Cambara of Anaheim received at the drive through food pantry on March 21. Credit: Karina Cambara

“We’re actually a little dumbfounded by that, to be honest. We’re bringing in pallets of food right now, from donors. We’re not bringing in the traditional food drive food. I’m not saying that did not happen. That’s not okay if it did,” Herrmann said. “To the best of our knowledge, all of the food that we packed up was appropriately screened.”

He said that it might have a sell by date that Cambara was looking at and not an expiration date.

Cambara also had concerns with the wait time. She said she was in line for three to four hours, stepping out of her car to help direct traffic.

Lines to the drive through food pantry spilled into the streets of Anaheim. Credit: Karina Cambara

“There were no street closures, which meant that there were cars coming into the Honda center from every street even from the 57 freeway, there were cars stopped.”

Even Herrmann said he personally helped direct traffic for two hours.

This time the traffic team that helps direct traffic for the Ducks, the Angels and the Disneyland resort have remapped how the pantry will move cars this weekend.

He also noted that only half of the volunteers expected to show up last week did so forcing the pantry to start an hour and a half earlier than scheduled.

Cambara said while she saw about a dozen people leave the line due to the wait, others were cutting the line.

“I was managing lines of over 100 cars personally for two hours, no one cut the line. If anyone was cutting the line, it was on the freeway, or it was out on Katella and we can’t control that,” Herrmann said in response.

“People were running out of gas on the line waiting. There were tow trucks called, to help those people,” Cambara said, adding that she saw tow trucks brought in with the drivers of the trucks stepping out of their cars to pump gas for people.

Hermann said that one car had a flat tire and another ran out of gas last week but both cars were attended to and still got their food.

Cambara said one thing she would like to see Second Harvest Food Bank do is have more communication with the Anaheim Police department.

“So there’s more control on people who are in line that they are going to get served, that they’re not just going to be there waiting for four hours and not get what they went to go get,” she said.

Hermann said the non profit did speak with Anaheim Police and Fire departments this week.

“They’ve dedicated 61st responders, mostly police and traffic to help us with demand this weekend. They’ve given us 107 paid staff to work the event with us,” he said.

Cambara also said that if the food pantry was more transparent with what they were giving out they might not have had as many attendees.

“if I knew that this was giving out maybe I wouldn’t have gone because maybe that’s not what I need for this week,” she said.

But not all the attendees feel the same way as Cambara.

Berenice Abrazan from Orange told the Voice of OC last week after the first drive through food pantry that the bag she and her family received was very helpful.

Although Cambara was the only person to express concerns about the drive through food pantry to the Voice of OC she said she was not alone in her experience and talked to other attendees that were concerned with the wait.

“I do have Facebook messages from other people that did experience what I experienced. And other people were not prepared to be in line for four to five hours,” she said.

Despite her concerns, Cambara said she wants Second Harvest Food Bank to know that they’re doing amazing work.

“We’re listening to the feedback that we’re getting both from the recipients of this food but also from staff that’s worked the events as well as from the people from the city to just continue to do a better job week over week while we get through this crisis,” Herrmann said.

“I’m not saying there won’t be lines. There may very well still be, but we’ll certainly be moving cars much, much more quickly this weekend than we did last.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC news intern. Contact him or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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