PLEASANT HILL (CBS SF) – A Pleasant Hill-based non-profit organization has seen demand for its food delivery services skyrocket as the novel coronavirus pandemic keeps Bay Area residents indoors and puts pressure on low-income families and seniors.

White Pony Express, which delivers surplus fresh food from local grocers and wholesalers to local community groups that serve hungry people, said Monday that demand for its services has more than doubled as people are stuck inside and may be unable to afford necessities like food if they can’t work.

The organization usually delivers roughly 7,000 pounds of food daily to local community groups. Last week, however, White Pony Express volunteers and staff gathered an average of 17,000 pounds each day to meet the demand for food assistance.

“This is a tremendous challenge to our volunteers and staff. They are having to process more than twice as much food as normal,” WPE interim executive director Isa Campbell said.

“During this pandemic, they could have stayed home and waited it out. But they are so eager to help people, they are still coming in and picking up this food, sorting it and delivering it,” Campbell said.

The heightened demand surprised WPE volunteers and staff at a grocery distribution site last week, when they expected to hand out food to some 200 families and found more than 600 cars in line. The organization had to scramble to bring in more groceries to ensure each family in line received food.

Food collected by White Pony Express being distributed in Antioch on April 1, 2020. (White Pony Express / Bay City News Service)

Food collected by White Pony Express being distributed in Antioch on April 1, 2020. (White Pony Express / Bay City News Service)

Much of the excess food is coming from food distributors around the Bay Area who have seen their supply chains severed as restaurants close, according to Campbell, who singled out Starbucks Coffee as particularly helpful by providing ready-to-eat meals.

WPE has also begun working with other food service providers like homeless shelters and community kitchens that are also seeing a spike in demand for fresh food.

“We know people need this food so much. We’re trying hard to increase our capability to deliver the food available to us,” Campbell said.  “It’s a challenge, and we welcome any help we can get. But we believe in the mission.”

Donations to the White Pony Express can be made at whiteponyexpress.org/donate-funds.

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