Sierra Community House (previously Project MANA) has been providing hunger relief services in the Tahoe community since 1991 and provides supplemental nutritional assistance to 700+ households every week. Starting in early 2024 in Truckee, the organization is taking strides in transforming its approach to food distribution by introducing a client choice model, which is similar to pre-Covid operations, and allows individuals to select their own food items, which in turn empowers the community and reduces waste.  

This launch of this Community Pantry format comes after much research and surveying the community, and it reflects Sierra Community House’s commitment to forward-thinking methods in addressing hunger and creating a more inclusive and sustainable solution. 

 Discover how this change is making waves in Truckee and beyond: 

Sierra Community House has offered food distribution in Truckee, Kings Beach, and Incline Village for many years. Can you describe at a high level the change that will be rolling out starting at Truckee distribution? 

Since operations shifted in response to the pandemic in 2020, all households received a pre-packed bag of food regardless of picking it up in person or receiving it delivered at home . The new client choice distribution model deconstructs this emergency-based model and incorporates dignity, empowerment, and connection into hunger relief services. It builds confidence and self-esteem in the community by giving individuals agency in selecting their food, fostering community interaction, and improving access to resources. This model also optimizes volunteer time and promotes sustainability through efficient resource use and partnerships with local producers.

What research informed the change? How is this shift indicative of the forward-thinking methods Sierra Community House is using to address hunger? 

In 2022, Sierra Community House’s hunger relief staff members attended the Food Bank of Northern Nevada partner agency conference and received Katie S. Martin’s book Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries which delves into strategies for creating more dignified and equitable systems that empower individuals and communities to access nutritious food with dignity and autonomy. Sierra Community House’s new Community Pantry will utilize the choice model to tackle the root causes of hunger and provide an empowering food assistance experience, where people have the dignity of choice.

How does the shift factor in food waste and sustainable food solutions? 

The Community Pantry mimics a mini supermarket, and the timing of the shift couldn’t be better. In 2024, Senate Bill 1383 requires food waste generators of a certain size to donate edible food to a recovery agency The Community Pantry allows our operations to recover more food and maximize food options available to the community. This effectively reduces food ending up in landfills while strengthening preexisting recovery efforts.  

What is the plan for Kings Beach and Incline Village food distribution?

Kings Beach in-person pick-up already operates with client choice principles and is consistently our busiest distribution. Incline Village still functions as a traditional model due to the logistical challenges that come with a pop-up pickup and home delivery distribution. In the coming months, we look forward to reworking our programs around the lake and strive for all food distribution offerings to empower the community with choice and dignity. 

What are you most hopeful about when you think about addressing hunger in Tahoe?  

Sierra Community House’s ongoing efforts address the root causes of hunger by focusing on nutrition security, access to resources, and empowering community members to actively participate in local programs. By consistently providing nutritious, fresh fruits and vegetables, our program helps families to eat healthy foods In 2023, we learned that 85% of households we serve have at least one child in the home. We hope that by providing a bag filled with deliciously fresh food, parents do not have to choose between paying utility bills or filling a lunch bag with nutritious food. We strive to give people a hand up out of life’s challenging situations and support families as long as needed. 

What would you like residents to know about hunger in Tahoe?

Despite Tahoe’s reputation for affluence, many of our neighbors struggle with food insecurity. Not only are the costs of living high, but the region struggles with limited access to affordable, culturally relevant, and nutritious food. Our program is a no-barrier resource for anyone to access, no proof of citizenship, income, or ID required. Food is a fundamental human right, and we are here for anyone who  needs support. 

How can people help support SCH’s Hunger Relief efforts?

People can directly support Sierra Community House’s hunger relief efforts by hosting a virtual food drive, volunteering their time, and sharing resources with neighbors going through a hard time. Each action, no matter how small, has the potential to be a large contribution when thoughtfully donated.  

Can you remind folks when and where food distribution happens in Truckee, Kings Beach, and Incline?  

Tuesdays from 12PM – 6PM at 12116 Chandelle Way, Suite D2, Truckee 

Wednesdays from 3PM – 4:30PM at 265 Bear St., Kings Beach 

Thursdays from 2PM – 3:30PM at 341 Village Blvd., Incline Village