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Fighting food insecurity in Fresno

A Kaiser Permanente grant supports a newly expanded Saint Rest Food-to-Share Hub that will improve access to healthy food for thousands across Fresno.

Saint Rest Baptist Church has worked tirelessly for years to help address widespread food insecurity throughout southwest Fresno.

Now, thanks to a longstanding partnership with Kaiser Permanente, Saint Rest is providing much-needed food in an area long known as a food desert.

Standing alongside area residents, volunteers, congregants, and leaders, Kaiser Permanente Fresno representatives proudly celebrated the opening of Saint Rest’s new Food-to-Share Hub.

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The hub’s new kitchen provides a space for Fresno residents to take cooking classes, and learn about good nutrition and food preparation.

The completed hub, funded in part by a $1 million Kaiser Permanente grant, is anticipated to process and distribute more than 1 million pounds of food annually to those in need.

“This community has a history of food disparity, separation, and disenfranchisement,” said DJ Criner, Saint Rest’s senior pastor. “But today they see a building that brings life — a historical building that signifies change in southwest Fresno that starts with the stomach, but then changes minds.”

Restoration, repurposing, and revitalization

With support from Kaiser Permanente, Fresno Metro Ministry, and other community partners, Saint Rest has transformed an old, abandoned warehouse that lingered on a neglected stretch of South Elm Avenue into a modern facility. This new space, which has the capability to safely receive, store, and distribute thousands of pounds of food daily, will also expand food access and education.

In addition to the renovated warehouse, the food hub project includes a new two-story facility with classrooms, office space, a balcony garden, and a kitchen where nutrition, cooking, and health education classes will be offered.

“This food hub is more than just a building. It’s a beacon of hope, a symbol of progress, and a testament to our collective commitment to bettering the lives of those in our community,” said Emogene Nelson, executive director of Fresno Metro Ministry. “Our local pantries are going to be filled. The education is going to happen around nutrition that will help break generational curses like diabetes and health disparities. This will not just be a place where food is served, but where lives will be nourished, and lives will be shaped.”

Better food access, better community health

For more than four decades volunteers with Saint Rest’s food ministry have worked to ensure people would not go hungry by collecting, preparing, and distributing food items. As community needs grew, so, too, did the need for additional resources and support.

Kaiser Permanente answered that call in 2017 with an initial $70,000 to help fund Fresno Metro Ministry’s food recovery program, which became known as the food-to-share program, to collect and redistribute unused food from local restaurants and businesses that would have otherwise been discarded.

Since its inception, the program has distributed more than 13 million pounds of food and served as the driving force behind the hub project.

“All health care providers know that food insecurity and economic insecurity are key social determinants of health,” said Rob Veneski, public affairs director for Kaiser Permanente Fresno and longtime supporter of the Saint Rest partnership. “Removing barriers and improving access to healthy food paves the way to better health for individuals, families, and communities. We are proud to be a part of this incredible effort that will only help make southwest Fresno a better place to live, work, learn, play, and thrive.”


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