Little did I know the day I bought my current Subaru (sixth in line) that other than asking, “Does it get good gas mileage?” I should have also inquired, “How many loaves of bread can it hold?” But here I am, delivering bread the first Tuesday and Thursday of every month to Sierra Community House, a local nonprofit focused on family strengthening, crisis intervention, hunger relief, and legal services. 

There are eight of us who volunteer, committed to our two mornings, amid our other volunteer jobs, watching grandkids, and tending to the everyday tasks in life. We’re all retirees. While it’s a small group and a job, we hope that our combined efforts will make a difference. Our shared goal is not only to help eliminate food waste — and by virtue, not add to landfills — but also to feed families.

HEART OF THE HOUSE: Three of the four full-timers who are at the heart of Sierra Community House Operations, from left, hunger relief program manager Rachel LaManna, program coordinator Ryan Vanderbur, and hunger relief program director Patrick Kratzer. Photos by Eve Quesnel

At the beginning, I took my sweet Border Collie with me, but I soon learned that if I wasn’t going to provide her with a snorkel to rise above the stacks of bagels, French bread, and garlic loaves, I best not take her. You never know what the morning will bring, an empty-ish car or a full-to-the roof one. 

Advertisement

Our band of eight is not the first to take on this side job. It began in 1995 with some seniors who picked up bread and delivered stacks of it to the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments. Two years later, Rita and Dave Holtebeck took on the duty, delivering twice weekly to the Community Recreation Center and eventually to the Veterans Hall, for Project MANA (Making Adequate Nutrition Accessible). In 2000, the Holtebecks picked up three more days — two of the days for Project MANA, the other three days for Sierra Senior Services. By that time, other items, such as sweets, eggs, and dairy products, were included. When they had extra food, they delivered to the Truckee Donner Senior Apartments and nearby mobile home parks. 

In about 2005, Dave and Rita recruited five friends to help them. That crew continued up until 2021. That’s when our current team came on board. Retired Glenshire Elementary teacher Kathy Echols and her husband, John, took the reins to gather the seven of us — Kathy Schegg, Cathy Valle, Sue Bower, Candy Blesse, Julia Lawrence, Irene Schneller (whose husband, Frank, also joined in), and me — to help spread the love, or should I say, bread. As often happens in Truckee and the surrounding Tahoe area, we all owned Subarus, which, with four-wheel drive and a large cargo area in the back, are perfect for the job, especially for wintertime deliveries. When we pull up to our three stores — Save Mart, Safeway, and Raley’s — we toss the loaves into our cars, much like the fishmongers at Pike Street Market in Seattle, who make a show of throwing fish before laying them down in ice-filled display cases. 

Our little “Subaru squad” isn’t the only group contributing to Sierra Community House. There are volunteers who sort through the items of food, pack the bags, and make the deliveries. Rachel LaManna, the hunger relief program manager, tells me they have over 50 volunteers and can’t stress enough, “We couldn’t do this without them. They are everything.” 

We pick up bread Mondays to Thursdays, when shopping carts are pre-filled with items for us to transfer into our cars to unload at Sierra Community House. Truckee Sourdough (organized by the Town of Truckee’s sustainability program, Keep Truckee Green) and Tahoe House also donate bread each week. 

Upon arrival at Sierra Community House, located at the Truckee Tahoe Airport, one of the nonprofit’s four full-timers — LaManna, Patrick Kratzer, Ryan Vanderbur, or Dustin Ayers — help us unload our wares into large milk crates. Each crate is then weighed — approximately 15 pounds per crate — and recorded. After documentation, the loaves are stored in a large refrigerator until they are packed into bags and delivered.

Other than bread, the bags are 75% filled with fresh produce and dairy items, and sometimes a few nonperishables like peanut butter or beans. These products, plus household goods, come from two large food banks: Sparks-based Food Bank of Northern Nevada and Nevada County Food Bank in Grass Valley. Food donations also come from food drives or special events like holiday turkey fundraisers and egg drives. In today’s virtual world, it’s even common for people to set up fundraising accounts to collect monetary donations benefiting the nonprofit.  

So, who receives this wonderful service and how does one qualify? 

In Truckee alone, 300 households with an average of three residents, receive these weekly deliveries. Add in the towns around Lake Tahoe, such as Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City, Tahoe Vista, Tahoma, and Olympic Valley, and the number climbs to 600 to 700 households. As for eligibility, anyone can receive a weekly bag. Yes, anyone. 

When a person comes to SCH with the purpose to enroll, he or she is only required to complete a form with name, date of birth, county, phone number, and number of people in the household. That’s it.

“Our objective is to provide nutrition,” says Patrick Kratzer, Hunger Relief Program director. “We want to destigmatize the image of someone who needs food assistance. Sierra Community House is for anyone who comes through our doors.”

LaManna concurs, “We’re here for you. That’s what we want people to know.”

While this system is how it’s been working for a while, everything changed 6 weeks ago. Sierra Community House has now set up The Community Pantry, a small grocery store framework, located at the airport warehouse and open on Tuesdays from 1 to 6 p.m. At one table, a person might pick up three tangerines. At another, nine potatoes. At the bread table, one or two loaves, depending on the haul that week. With this new program, the team is finding less food waste. For example, if someone is allergic to tomatoes and the bag is filled with several of them, that person might just throw them away. So, better to pick what one likes and that fits his or her nutritional needs. The main objective is to offer choices.

“Funnily enough, we are merely returning to the pantry idea,” said LaManna says. “Covid interrupted that operation, but we’re up and running again!”

The other benefit of the pantry-style operation, “is building a relationship with our clients,” Kratzer said. “On those Tuesdays of the pantry, the promotoras are housed in our building. [They’re] a group of Latina women who assist with matters concerning childcare, careers, wellness, legal issues, domestic issues, and finances.”

The promotoras are available from 3:30 to 6 p.m. A family support advocate is also present, from 1 to 3:30 p.m. Both offer case management services and are bilingual with English and Spanish.

“If a household is struggling with the choice of ‘Do I pay the utility bill or do I buy food?,’ we want to help them find a solution to their financial and nutritional needs,” Kratzer said. While Sierra Community House is enthusiastically promoting the comeback of the pantry, it still delivers to those who are unable to participate in the Tuesday distribution.  

Author

  • Eve Quesnel

    Eve Quesnel has lived in Truckee for 35 years with her husband Bill, once-upon-a-time daughter Kim-now on her own-and many dogs through the years, currently a Border Collie-Aussi mix. Her favorite pastimes include walking in her neighborhood and nearby woods, hiking in the high Sierra, and reading and writing. Quesnel is now retired from teaching English at Sierra College in Truckee but continues to pursue several writing projects. She is intrigued by the natural world of which she explores and writes about for the column "Nature's Corner" in Moonshine Ink.

Advertisement
Previous articleMoonshine Ink Vintage 22 Nip 3
Next articleNew Tahoe City Safeway Opening Date Pushed to Next Year