Serra’s Pantry & Outreach Ministry in San Juan Capistrano went for the gold and got it – recognition as a Gold Certified Nutrition Pantry, the first one to receive the gold award in Orange County.

Before an enthusiastic crowd of pantry volunteers that included Msgr. J. Michael McKiernan, pastor of the pantry’s parish, Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano, pantry director David Bordages was recently presented with the award by Maridet Ibanez, administrative manager of nutrition services, health promotion, and community planning under the O.C. Health Care Agency.

“We are an organization that recognizes food pantries for the good work they do,” Ibanez explained. “We come in to provide nutrition resources, we look at the environment and the inventory, and see if the communities are culturally connected and have appropriate material to give information.”

Dietician Patricia Stabile, a program manager from the O.C. Health Care Agency’s CalFresh Healthy Living Program, invited Serra’s Pantry to apply for the gold status award because it met the criteria enumerated in the award certificate: “collecting and using client
feedback, offering onsite nutrition education, reducing food waste and ensuring robust connections helping clients access local resources.”

CalFresh Healthy Living is the largest nutritional education program in the country. It provides monthly food benefits to low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.

“CalFresh is teaching healthy eating to our clients,” said pantry director David Bordages. “They approached the pantry many years ago and asked if we could set up and counsel people with information on healthy eating habits.”

Last month the pantry served about 180 families per week. It distributed over 16 tons of food from seven area partner stores.

“Yes, CalFresh is important’ he said, “but more important is our Second Harvest Grocery Rescue Plan. We distribute the food we get from network grocers to the 11 communities we serve.”

Bordages said he believes the pantry received the award because it is a credible organization that distributes food and also appreciates the integrity of the people who are receiving it.

“We treat our clients with dignity and respect and give them a bit of extra food to help them with their food budgets for the week,” he said.

Christina Puga, the Basilica Outreach Ministry’s coordinator, said in addition to the grace of God and Msgr. McKiernan’s pastoral support, it’s the parishioners, pantry volunteers and community members who make Serra’s Pantry a valuable resource.

“It takes a village to raise a village,” she said.

Serra’s Food Pantry is located on the Mission Basilica San Juan Capistrano and is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Food is distributed to registered clients from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Food donations are also accepted on these days or may be made by calling 949-234- 1302. For more information, visit https://www.serraspantryoutreach. org/.