What started out as a teen center providing kids with an afterschool snack has turned into an established food pantry that managed to distribute 1.1 million pounds of food to the residents of Stockton during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Heather Green, executive director of Oasis City Center, said the teen center had originally created a food pantry to provide an afternoon snack to children who were attending.
“It started off as just snacks when they would come after school, and if we had any leftovers, we encouraged them to take them home,” Green said.
However, in February of 2020, just two and a half weeks after creating a partnership with Second Harvest Food Bank to keep the pantry stocked, the pandemic hit.
In response to the health crisis, Green and Oasis co-founder Joey Steelman began working to feed the broader community.
“We flipped on a dime,” Green said. “Instead of just focusing on kids, we started feeding our entire community.”
In place of after-school snacks, Oasis started providing food to people who had lost jobs due to the pandemic, to parents forced to stay home with their kids after schools closed and to anyone else who needed help keeping food on the table.
Partnering with Second Harvest, Costco, Trader Joe’s, Bimbo Breads and others, the center launched Oasis Cares and was able to give out food every day during the pandemic.
“During the pandemic we had a lot of wonderful partnerships that helped us keep the food coming,” Steelman said.
Steelman said the center distributes more than 50 pounds of groceries per car including milk, meat, canned goods, cheese and many other items.
Oasis Cares offers a drive-thru once a month for large distributions, as well as smaller distributions throughout the week at the center.
Individuals attending the food distributions must be in a car. Oasis encourages people without cars to join another family’s vehicle in order to receive food. People need to fill out one-time information cards before receiving a keycard they show at the distributions to receive food. Only one keycard per family is needed.
Individuals and families wanting more information can go online, or text the word “OASISCARES” to 9400 to receive updates.