Helping Hands

Alameda Food Bank volunteer proves indispensable.


Al Wright

When Alameda resident Virginia Darrow was first asked to volunteer with the Alameda Food Bank’s Perishable Food Program, she remembers feeling reluctant.

“I wasn’t quite sure how much of a commitment it would be,” Darrow says.

Yet it didn’t take long for the Alameda resident to fall in love with the program, and the people. As the Perishable Food Program celebrates its sixth year, Darrow is now one of the program’s staunchest supporters. She arrives at Christ Episcopal Church in Alameda every Tuesday morning at 7:15, and proceeds to work alongside 20 other volunteers who distribute groceries, including fruits and vegetables, and other staples to approximately 100 recipients over a four-hour period.

Last summer, Darrow, a retired teacher who worked in the Fremont Unified School District for 34 years before retiring in 1999, was named the Alameda Food Bank’s Volunteer of the Year. We asked the married great-grandmother why she’s committed to giving back.

How did you first get started volunteering with the Perishable Food Program?

Prior to 2007, the program was offered at the military base. The idea was to move it to a more central location and our parish, Christ Episcopal Church, was seen as a central location. Our priest asked me if I would
serve as a liaison between the church and
the food bank.

Has the program grown over the past six years?

Yes, when the program first started we saw about 45–65 people each week, primarily seniors. Today, we see more than 100 people each week, and a lot more families. We get a lot of seniors who are immigrants and have worked very hard but don’t have benefits, single parents who have lost their jobs, families who have been hit hard by the economic downturn. Everyone we serve has a definite need and they are all very grateful for the services provided. Our church also started a volunteer garden with the help of Ploughshares Nursery where we grow a variety of fruits and vegetables that we then donate to the Perishable Food Program.

Is there a way other Alameda residents can help?

We always need nonperishable food donations—protein sources such as pasta and sauce, peanut butter, cans of tuna. In addition, if people have fruit trees in their yard and want to donate fresh fruit, it’s very appreciated. They can drop the donations off to the Alameda Food Bank or bring items to the church on any Tuesday morning. We also receive donations from Trader Joe’s, Safeway, and Feel Good Bakery.


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