Merced County Times Newspaper
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You can help celebrate the Pop Up People’s Pantry

The Pop Up People’s Pantry opened on April 4, 2020, and is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Saturday, April 3, 2021.

The Pantry, located at the 18th Street People’s Garden at 936 W. 18th Street in Merced, has a collection of fresh local produce and other food items which are available for people to take at no charge between 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Because she coordinated CropMobster, a large organization based at UC Merced which gleans food from existing farms and brings it to local people, Erin Meyer started the Pop Up People’s Pantry, which is similar in that it involves growing produce downtown for the people of the community to take.

To celebrate the Pantry’s anniversary, people who have received food items there are invited to take a picture of what they’ve been cooking with what they received and tag the Pantry on social media by April 1 so a collage can be created.

How did the Pop-Up People’s Pantry Start?

Describing how the Pop Up People’s Pantry started, Meyer, who is UC Merced’s Sustainable Food Programs Coordinator for the Office of Leadership, Service and Career and Office of Sustainability, explained, “I had been going to the local Farmer’s Market every week on Saturday in downtown Merced on 16th and Canal since 2017 when I moved out here, and typically I would take the food that was left over to a barber shop in Bob Hart Square, and the woman who worked there would take it to the Food Bank since I couldn’t take it myself.

“As the pandemic was rolling in and we heard barber shops were closing and the Farmer’s Market had to move to 18th Street, I had all this food I had to move from one location to another, and I realized I needed to do something else, so I decided I would try my hand at gardening.

“I reached out to Steve Roussos, who works at UC Merced and owns a nonprofit that manages the community garden at 936 W. 18th Street in Merced,  and I asked him if I could put some seeds in a raised bed and see if I could grow some things.

“He said yes.

“Then I asked if we could hand out free food on a Saturday, and the first Saturday in April, we started giving out food and we had a few people take some. Since then, the Pop-Up People’s Pantry has grown.  We started getting community donations. We expanded from offering only produce, and began offering a wider array of food.

“We have been giving out a variety of food, including bread, pastries and canned goods, besides produce, which is the main thing.

“We are now serving 55 to 60 people per week, and we haven’t really spent any money.

“We’re using a very sustainable model, economically, socially and environmentally.

“Saturdays are my favorite day because this is such a rewarding experience.

“People need to wear masks and social distance and bring a bag and pick what they want.”

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