A new community resources database created by Stanford University's Big Local News project links to Mapbox maps showing where such things as emergency housing, food and social services are located. (Image courtesy of bayareacommunity.org)

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As economic hardships produced by the coronavirus pandemic continue to grow, more and more people find themselves in need of assistance, ranging from food to medical treatment to legal aid.

Now a group of Stanford University students and faculty volunteers has launched a new website where Bay Area residents can find a broad variety of critical resources.

The Bay Area Community website helps users find free food offerings at school meal sites, food pantries, medical and mental health services, legal consultation and crisis hotlines.

The resource, which is being expanded to include housing resources, emergency financial services and social service enrollment sites, will ultimately cover all nine Bay Area counties.

“We have created this site based on conversations with social workers, community organizations and free clinic staff across the bay,” said Joyce Tagal, a participating student who has a master’s degree in education and is finishing a second in public policy. “There are several resource sites out there, but we believe our website is the most comprehensive and up-to-date.”

Designed for use on mobile phones with limited data plans, the website is accessible in six languages — English, Spanish, Mandarin, Malay, Tagalog and Vietnamese — with more on the way.

Earlier this year, Tagal and others published an online meal map identifying Bay Area schools that offer free meals for pickup by students and their families.

The new website greatly expands that effort. Its map displays CalFresh-accepting retailers and farmer’s markets in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, including each site’s WIC-acceptance status, updated COVID-19 hours, senior hours and options for pick-up and delivery, as well as critical legal, medical and mental health resources across the bay.

“The tool is growing every day through the work of our volunteers, community partners and users,” Charlie Hoffs, another student involved in the effort, said.

“Every food pantry, school district, local business, legal service, clinic, shelter and mental health resource in our database acts as a lifeline for the Bay Area.”

The cost of maintaining a project of this scope would normally be enormous, but a team of more than 70 volunteers from Stanford and beyond provides the extensive research needed to establish the resources website and keep it up to date and accurate. The project is an outgrowth of Stanford’s Big Local News program, which facilitates a wide variety of collaborative projects for journalists. The team also mentioned that it would welcome collaboration with local governments and nonprofits who might want to display important resource information on the website.

“We are so grateful for the work of everyone who helped build the tool and for each community service worker behind the listings on our site,” Tagal said.