Sewage Inundation Temporarily Closes Food People

Sewage Clean-up

Early Friday morning February 28th, we arrived at our main site at 307 W. 14th Street in Eureka to two-thirds of our building swimming in several inches of sewer matter and water due to a city sewer malfunction. The hardest hit of our programs is our on-site Eureka Choice Pantry (which includes our main entrance lobby), followed by our middle warehouse space that stores the back stock for the Choice Pantry. In our middle warehouse space, wooden pallets of food were sitting in several inches of sewer matter and water. The wooden pallets absorbed and wicked this up and then began to transfer the liquid to layers of the cardboard cases of food sitting on the pallets, and onward to the food labels and cans or boxes of food. Sewer water also quickly began wicking up into the walls, all told significant damage was done to the building the food bank has called home for the last two decades. 

Since then we have been “dancing as fast as we can.” Shortly after the sewer inundation, we moved food bank staff and operations out of the building into four separate leased locations, and just a few days later “shelter in place” orders were issued in response to the pandemic, forcing us to completely redesign food distribution protocols at all levels to keep everyone safe. It’s been a wild ride ever since, but we are excited to share the news that we are about to embark on a new adventure that will define our future for years to come.

In early October, work will begin on the demolition of our facility at 307 W. 14th St., followed by a complete transformation and renovation of the site to provide more warehouse space, increased cooler and freezer capacity, and offices and meeting spaces for program staff and community partners. Our amazing staff and volunteers, who have been operating in an old building in cramped conditions in which daily operations were often like a real-life game of Tetris, are excitedly looking forward to serving our community in a facility that is inviting and efficient, and most importantly, allows us to grow and adapt to the changing needs of our county.

And while this may appear to some to be a sudden decision, the reality is that there has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes over the last couple of years to address the limitations of our aging building.  We conducted a financial feasibility study; engaged Greenway Partners to formulate the design plans; formed committees of Food for People Board members, community advisors and staff to discuss future needs; and started lining up the financial support necessary to get things started. Thanks to the vision of Carol Anne Smullin Brown, the William and Patricia B. Smullin Foundation stepped up to provide $1.5 million as a foundational gift, which was soon followed by $250,000 in support pledged by St. Joseph Health Humboldt. Since then we’ve lined up $3 million towards our goal of $5 million and we’re now ready to share our efforts with the community. We had hoped to be further along, but the sewer inundation damaged our building so extensively that we’ve had no choice but to jump start the public phase of our capital campaign and move forward.

The vision is to tear down and rebuild our existing facility, which we own, and acquire additional, offsite warehouse space. This will make it possible for us to increase storage capacity to accommodate large quantities of purchased and donated food; expand the reach of our programs and collaborations with community partners; provide more employment training opportunities for students and others seeking work experience; and work with local, state and national partners during times of disaster. These initiatives aren’t new; they’ve just been happening for years on a much more limited scale due to the limitations of our infrastructure. But now we’re ready to fully embrace the needs of our reality, prepare for the future and kick it up a notch!While tackling such a big project during a pandemic when our local, state and national economies are struggling is definitely not ideal timing for a capital campaign, but the current situation adds emphasis to the important role Food for People plays in providing essential food assistance for our friends and neighbors who are struggling financially, regardless of what sort of personal disaster they are facing. In addition to COVID-19, we are currently surrounded by wildfires, and many folks are being displaced and may lose their homes. We want our community to know that Food for People is committed to continuing our 40+ year history of being here as a vital resource for our community when needed most, and we hope you will join us in this next chapter of our evolution.

Food safety is a top priority, and everyone, at every income level, deserves safe food.

  • Food for People helps more than 12,000 individuals across Humboldt County every month
  • ⅓ of the people we serve are children
  • ¼ of the people we serve are seniors, who struggle to survive on low, fixed incomes
  • More than ⅓ of the people we serve are on disability
  • We serve many who are medically fragile, some living with serious illness and compromised immune systems, and some enrolled in home hospice care
  • Many of those we serve are working families that are underemployed and do not earn enough to survive
  • 9 out of 10 of those served are housed

Our staff is working extremely hard to keep program services operating as close to normal as possible. Although we are temporarily unable to process food donations at this time, financial donations are encouraged. Community members can help make this vision a reailty for our commuinty. You can donate online through this secure giving link.


Due to the damage in our lobby and former Choice Pantry area, our building at 14th Street is currently closed to the public. Please click here to visit our Contacts page, to determine the best way to get in touch with the specific program or staff member you may be trying to reach. For the timebeing, we are unable to have a receptionist answering calls at our 14th Street location. If you call, you will hear a recording and a menu of programs/staff and phone extensions. The phone number of the new off-site Choice Pantry is provided on the recording, and folks seeking the Choice Pantry or volunteer services will need to call the new Choice Pantry number (also listed below). You can press the phone extension for our other staff and other 17 programs at any time during the recording.

Program Services

Choice Pantry:

We have secured an alternate location in Eureka for the Choice Pantry. The Eureka Choice Pantry is now open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 11:00 am-3:00 pm at 2112 Broadway, Eureka (at the corner of W. Hawthorne St., next to the bowling alley). New phone number for only the Choice Pantry and volunteer services: (707) 407-0447. (You can still reach our other staff and other 17 programs at our main number.)  

Please call the new Choice Pantry to make an appointment before visiting. We have developed specific illness prevention protocols at the Choice Pantry and in all of our distribution programs. Households must make an appointment before visiting the Choice Pantry, so we can keep distributions safe for all involved. All Choice Pantry distributions are temporarily taking place outside. We are making our way toward a drive-through model, to further promote "social distancing" while we work to meet households' needs. Food will temporarily be pre-bagged ahead of time by gloved staff and volunteers. Expect a check-in station, where staff will fill out paperwork (to avoid sharing pens) and then a food pick-up station.

Mobile Produce Pantry:

  • We are working hard to get fresh produce out to our Mobile Produce Pantry site communities, in a manner that is as safe as possible and in line with illness prevention and "social distancing" procedures. Produce will either be pre-bagged, or bagged up at the site for participants by our staff. Please stay tuned for updates.

Senior & Homebound Delivery Programs:

  • Our regularly-scheduled Senior and Homebound program site distributions or deliveries contintue on. We have implemented illness prevention procedures to make distributions as safe as possible for all, with a combination of drive-through/car-side service methods and home deliveries, depending on the senior site. Many of the established program sites at senior apartments/complexes will receive home delivery. Many of the sites that are not at senior apartment buildings/complexes will move toward drive-through/car-side service method. Staff will fill out paperwork (to avoid sharing pens). 

Backpacks for Kids:

  • Participating schools are committed to keeping this program going during the school closure. Schools will communicate with participating families regarding procedures.

Countywide Pantry Network:

  • Food deliveries to our countywide pantry partners continue without interruption, to keep our 17 emergency food pantry partners stocked up and ready to meet food needs in their local communities. We are in continuous communication with all 17 of our countywide pantry site partners, to provide support and guidance on illness prevention procedures and distribution methods, for the safety of all.