Mobile Pantry

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Second Harvest Food Bank's monthly Mobile Pantry Program distributes pre-packaged, non-perishable items, fresh dairy products, and produce to residents of geographically isolated, low-income neighborhoods who do not have consistent access to nutritious food. The Mobile Pantry Program has been in operation since 2007.

Program Description

The Food Bank's Mobile Pantry Program is unique and progressive because we directly address geographically isolated low-income communities where residents experience chronic hunger and food insecurity. The Mobile Pantry Program was established to assist low-income individuals and families who live in "walking neighborhoods" where residents have little or no access to transportation and/or where there are no full-service grocery stores within reasonable walking distance.

While the non-profit agencies that serve these areas are able to pre-screen potential participants for eligibility so that the Food Bank can provide services, these agencies often lack the infrastructure and resources (space, large volunteer force, etc.) needed to handle the actual food distributions. In response, the Food Bank established the Mobile Pantry Program where pre-assembled food boxes and gallons of milk are delivered to a designated neighborhood site via a refrigerated Food Bank truck. The food is then unloaded and distributed directly to residents.

Because the Food Bank has a powerful volunteer force, we are able to sort food, assemble boxes, and manage the distribution logistics. Food Bank nutritionists advise what foods to include, ensuring a nutritionally balanced variety, and the allotment of food for each household is no less than 25 items.

Examples of items included:

  • Fresh Produce
  • Cereal
  • Milk
  • Beans
  • Rice and other staple items

The Mobile Pantry Program model efficiently alleviates hunger in isolated communities, builds trust with residents, and is highly collaborative with other local service agencies.

Population and Region Served

  • The Mobile Pantry Program serves 3,238 low-income individuals (representing 862 households) who are residents of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and are living at or below 200% of the federal poverty level.
  • We estimate that nearly half of the individuals served are children. We also know from our 2010 participant survey that Mobile Pantry serves large households: Of those surveyed, 40% of the households share the food with 5 or more people, and for an additional 44% of the households, three to four people use the food.
  • There are five Mobile Pantry distributions monthly, occurring at two locations in Santa Clara County and two in San Mateo County.


The people in the communities served by the Mobile Pantry are at high risk of chronic hunger and nutritional deficiencies. The Mobile Pantry is making great strides in addressing critical needs as shown in our 2010 survey, with participants reporting that because of Mobile Pantry, 57% are eating more fruits and vegetables, 42% have more food at each meal, 41% are able to eat 3 meals a day, and 34% are cooking more. However, we also learned that more resources are still needed in these communities, with 29% stating that they only have enough nutritious food about "half the time" or "usually not," and another 64% stating they only have enough nutritious food on "most days."

For More Information

Please contact Shirley Chang, Agency Relations Manager, at 408.266.8866 ext. 272 or email