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Local family takes initiative to feed those in need
Katherine Navarrete and Calista Ortega help pack goods into boxes at the Martinez home on Thursday night.

The holiday season often motivates individuals to give back to their community by heading down to their local soup kitchen or homeless shelter, but the Martinez family of Turlock is taking a more direct approach by hosting their own food drive.

For the past ten years brother and sister David and Serrah Martinez have used David’s garage for one night the week before Thanksgiving to box up food to donate to local schools in the Turlock, Keyes, and Modesto area. However, this one night requires year-round effort of collecting donations and purchasing food of their own accord.

Serrah began giving away baskets of food with her sister 19 years ago as part of her sorority involvement while a member of Lambda Sigma Gamma at California State University, Stanislaus. What started as a six basket donation has since become a family affair that once saw 75 boxes of food given away in their most productive year. This year the Martinez’s and their family and friends spent Wednesday evening packing 50 boxes to give away Thursday.

The Martinez’s contact local schools in impoverished areas and get in touch with Head Start program administrators and offer their services to find those in need of the food donations. They typically give five to six boxes to each class for students in need. Teachers come to their home to pick up the boxes of food to distribute. The boxes have all of the fixings for a Thanksgiving meal besides the turkey which the teachers supply.

“The goal here is to supply families with more than one meal. We give them ingredients too, like milk and eggs and sugar, in order to help them stretch out the food to feed their children for several meals,” said Serrah.

Serrah credits her mother as her inspiration for the food drive after watching her provide for others over the years even when there was little to give. In the past 10 years Serrah’s brother David has gotten involved by making his garage a virtual food storage unit with built in shelves to make the November food packing process easier. Ketchup bottles, canned goods, and bags of nuts neatly line the shelves waiting to be packed away in an orderly fashion.

“We buy things year round from all different stores whenever there is a sale and we store it here. Of course I move things around like mayonnaise so it does not sit here in the summertime, but it really is a constant effort and something we think about year-round,” said David.

The Martinez’s are not only on the hunt for good sales to buy items in bulk through the year. They have also forged relationships with local companies such as Gemperle Farms, which donates a flat of eggs per box. Other donations this year include milk, chorizo, and almonds though the products fluctuate year to year based on what’s available. David keeps a running total of what they acquire as the year goes on in order to make sure there is equal distribution among the boxes.

Those interested in donating to the Martinez food drive efforts can contact Serrah Martinez at 499-1694 or 579-2208. Donations are tax deductible.