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Families rely on food distributions in rural 'food desert' communities

In some rural communities, families rely on receiving food distributions through local food banks for fresh produce.

DUNNIGAN, Calif. — For some families, shopping in a grocery store near their home that is well stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables is not possible. 

There are towns where there are more fast food options than grocery stores and the only option to buy a meal is at a liquor store.

In Dunnigan, population of 1,400, a general store is the only grocery store in town. The store said they had a limited number of produce available but, when ABC10 stopped by, fresh fruits or vegetables were nowhere to be found. The shelves were stocked with toiletries, boxed and canned goods, and alcohol.

Silvia Vázquez lives at Campers Inn RV park with her husband and three children. She is one of several dozen other people who receives distributions through the Yolo Food Bank at the RV park.

She says she is grateful to receive the distribution a couple of times a month since it's walking distance from her home. The grocery store that was at the RV park closed down several years ago.

"It's a huge help, especially now during the pandemic," she told ABC10 in Spanish. "It helps a lot. They have them on the door of our home. For me, it's been a huge help."

"There are populations that are more susceptible to food insecurity because they are in rural areas and not connected to services," says Maria Segoviano, of Yolo Food Bank. "Those are towns like Dunnigan, Esparto, Madison, Yolo, Knights Landing, Capay Valley."

The need goes beyond Yolo County too.

The Second Harvest of the Greater Valley serves 35,000 individuals in need each month in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced, and the Mother Lode counties.

ABC10 was there during a mobile fresh distribution site in Ceres. It's a drive-thru where people can pull up and get fresh produce including some non-perishable foods too. About 250 families received items that would last them for a couple of days. Some of the people don't have access to a large grocery store nearby.

"We realized not everybody has access to a beautiful grocery store where they can walk in and get fresh produce at any time," said Jessica Vaughn, Second Harvest of the Greater valley.

Some of the people ABC10 spoke to said they were impacted by the pandemic or have fallen on hard times and can't travel far to get groceries.

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Food Insecurity: People of color face difficulty accessing healthy food for their families.