The last few years have been very rough for everyone economically – every day families struggle just to put food on the table. And for many families, that includes a struggle to provide food for their pets also.
PETS IN NEED. As the economy stumbles, humans aren’t the only family members in need. Families are struggling to feed their furry children, too. Titanic’s Pantry exists to help. / Photo courtesy, Titanic’s Pantry
That’s where Sacramento’s pet food bank, Titanic’s Pantry, comes in.
“When you have to make a decision between paying your mortgage, your car payment or buying dog food, that’s a real conundrum,” explained Gina Knepp, acting manager of the City of Sacramento Animal Care Services. “It’s a terrible dilemma for anyone to have to face. If you find yourself in dire straits where you need pet food, come get it from us because we don’t want people to surrender their pets to the local shelters – that’s the last thing we want to do.”
The pantry is seeing an increase in need, just as local food banks for humans are seeing an uptick – at this time of year, especially. Every neighborhood in the region is affected.
Penny Cistaro, now chief operations officer for the Sacramento SPCA, started Titanic’s Pantry in November 2009. She got the idea for the pantry while in Washington State.
“When I came back to California, there wasn’t a (pet) food bank in the region, and having had a (pet) food bank up in Washington State at the shelter I had worked at and seeing the benefits there, I wanted to start one here,” Cistaro said.
A team effort
Now about two years later, Titanic’s Pantry is a collaborative effort of the City of Sacramento Animal Care Services, Sacramento County Animal Care and Regulation, the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), and Happy Tails Pet Sanctuary.
According to Knepp, those in need of pet food can visit the city, county, or SPCA shelter once a month for a donation.
The City’s shelter has the biggest client base – more than 2,000 people come there each month and they distribute at least 3,000 pounds of food a week. Additionally, Titanic’s Pantry provides a number of other supplies that people may need for their animals; everything from cat litter and litter boxes to dog biscuits, leashes, collars, beds and even toys.
Who is eligible?
So who is eligible to receive assistance from Titanic’s Pantry?
Anyone who needs it, according to Knepp. There is no application to fill out or proof of eligibility.
“If they’re not registered with us, the first time they come in they show us a picture ID and we’ll put them in our computer system to keep track of how many people we’re helping,” Knepp explained. “Then once a month they can come back if they need to and get food from us. We have some people that come back several times. And then we have some people that come back and bring us a bag of food to thank us because we helped them when they were in trouble.”
Bags of food needed
And it’s those bags of pet food coming in to Titanic’s Pantry that are so desperately needed right now.
“One of the biggest challenges is to keep the shelves constantly stocked because you rely on donations,” said Shari Lowen, senior services coordinator for the Sacramento SPCA and volunteer that helped Cistaro start Titanic’s Pantry. “You may get a huge truckload of donated food and that might last a few weeks and then somebody comes in and there’s absolutely nothing to give them.”
Donations of pet food – dry cat and dog food – are how the community can help support the Pantry, Cistaro said.
“Buy a 20, 30, or 40 pound bag of food and bring it to the SPCA or take it to the county or the city (shelters) – whichever shelter is closest or whichever one is closest to your heart,” Cistaro said. “Just bring in food – even a 10-pound, 5-pound bag of dry food. It’s easy to transport, it lasts, that’s what will help.”
Participate in a pet food drive
According to Knepp, donations can be made on-site to the city, county, SPCA, or Happy Tails. She added that the community can pitch in to help by setting up pet food drives for the Pantry in their neighborhood.
EVERY BIT HELPS. Donations of bags of pet food – in 5, 10, 20, even 50 pound bags – can help to make a difference in the life of a family in your neighborhood. Grateful families often return months later with a donation of pet food…happy to return the favor for help during a “rough patch.” / Photo courtesy, Titanic’s Pantry
For example, Knepp held a drive in Hollywood Park, raising 800 pounds of food for the Pantry. She then passed it on to Curtis Park – which brought in over 3,000 pounds of food donations – and now is trying to get Land Park “to take up the gauntlet.”
Knepp said a pet food drive can also be a great project for groups, such as high schools.
Help pets by volunteering
Titanic’s Pantry is also always in need of volunteers to help with picking up donations of pet food. For example, a Save Mart store in Vacaville currently supplies the Pantry with donations of food from broken bags, which Knepp says can sometimes add up to about 7,000 pounds of dry kibble for the Pantry. Volunteers are needed to help bag the loose kibble for distribution using empty sand bags Knepp obtained from the Department of Transportation.
“Our volunteers will come in and fill the sand bags up with dog food and we tie the tops just like sand, but it’s dog food, and (we) give that out,” she explained.
Keeping Titanic’s Pantry going will continue to help enable people to keep their animals, Cistaro said.
“Animals play a powerful role in someone’s life,” she said. “People lose so much, the last thing they should lose is a family member and an animal is a family member.”
For more information on Titanic’s Pantry, including volunteer and donation information, visit www.sacpetfoodbank.org.